Modernizing Transportation, Creating Choices For The Future

By Diane Nguyen
Executive Director, San Joaquin Council of Governments

Innovation and technology are transforming transportation right before our eyes. No longer is that transformation a thing of science fiction, but of present-day and near-future events.

And with that transformation comes an expanding collection of transportation choices.

Batteries for electric vehicles — cars, utility vehicles and even semitrucks — are getting better and holding a charge for longer. The recharging infrastructure for these vehicles will continue to grow. Vehicles using hydrogen fuel cells, with water as the only emissions, could become more popular. Electric planes are being developed now. And the San Joaquin Regional Transit District has been using electric buses since May 2013. 

Diane NguyenMore and more members of the public soon could be driving autonomous vehicles that were once thought of the Space Age. With all this comes the need for connectivity so these vehicles can “talk” with one another to avoid collisions and that means the need for a wider broadband internet infrastructure. The COVID-19 pandemic has driven innovations for a stay-at-home workforce and expanded e-economy, which also needs an expanded broadband.

We at the San Joaquin Council of Governments (SJCOG) looked at how technological advancements might affect transportation and land use in the San Joaquin region and published the Transportation Innovation Planning Study in April. From that came the initiative to develop a Fiber Readiness Plan, which would be a collection of best practices and recommendations for preparing the region for expanding high-speed internet through widespread fiber optic construction. This plan will help policymakers, local partners and other stakeholders understand where fiber optic expansion might have the most impact and guide them in phasing in the broadband infrastructure throughout the region. 

We’ve also been expanding mobility options for people who live, work and attend school here now. One such advancement made possible by Measure K was the development of EZHub, a cashless, contactless mobile ticketing and fare payment system in the Vamos Mobility app that public transit riders can use across all transit systems in San Joaquin County. A person who rides the Lodi GrapeLine or the Tracy Tracer or Ripon Blossom Express can use EZHub to purchase tickets to get them to the Altamont Corridor Express (ACE) station, and then take an ACE Rail train to the San Francisco Bay Area.

One novel project already in place to relieve traffic congestion and improve safety is the State Route 120/Union Road diverging diamond interchange in Manteca. This pioneering design allows easier access to the highway and improves safety for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. This award-winning project was the first diverging diamond interchange built in California and received Measure K funding. 

Measure K is also funding environmental analysis on an innovative project that will be years in the making — widening and other improvements to Interstate 205 for mobility from the San Joaquin region to jobs, entertainment and recreation in the Bay Area. The environmental document is looking at transportation concepts including bus and/or passenger rail in the median and toll lanes. 

Other projects, while they may not be of the Space Age, will elevate the quality of life for people living in the San Joaquin region. Measure K funding will be used to relieve congestion and greatly improve safety in the rebuilding of the State Route 99/120 and State Route 99/Turner Road interchanges. SJCOG recently added $13.3 million in Measure K funds for 11 projects throughout the region that directly affect people living, working and going to school in San Joaquin County. Those include Safe Routes to School improvements in Ripon, Lodi, and Manteca, and funds for laying the groundwork for future bicycle and pedestrian improvements in Lathrop. Two projects in Stockton — the Miner Avenue project and the East Channel Street Streetscape and Connectivity Project — will significantly improve safety for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists, and greatly enhance the appeal of the respective neighborhoods. 

These are just a few of the projects throughout San Joaquin County that will greatly expand transportation choices and reimagine the transportation future for San Joaquin residents.