Data-Driven Process

SANDAG developed the vision for the 2021 Regional Plan based on a careful and deliberate analysis of where people live and work, how they get around, what mobility options would make their lives easier, what transportation infrastructure exists, what is needed to serve future growth, and more.

For more details, view the Vision for the 2021 Regional Plan Network Development Summary Report

How was the concept for the vision developed? 

The approach for developing the vision for the San Diego region using the 5 Big Moves was introduced on April 26, 2019. At that time, the 5 Big Moves were high-level concepts to address congestion, meet our regulatory requirements, and take advantage of technology trends that have transformed transportation over the past decade. Since then, the 5 Big Moves have evolved into a vision for a complete transportation ecosystem that gets the most out of our current infrastructure.

During the concept development stage, we focused on understanding the personal transportation challenges community members face every day. This process was informed by early work on the 2019 Regional Plan, including significant community input collected throughout 2018. To engage residents through more focused conversations, we used a method new to SANDAG called Human-Centered Design. This involved having ongoing, in-depth conversations with community members to understand the problems they face, then developing solutions that address those problems. We also delivered hundreds of presentations to a variety of organizations and associations around the region and conducted a number of workshops, including a SANDAG Working Group forum, a Tribal Transportation workshop, discussions with some of the largest employers in the region, and a crossborder mobility workshop.


SANDAG convened a Vision Advisory Panel of industry experts to learn how emerging technology might enhance personal mobility and how public–private partnerships could accelerate their adoption. The general concept for the vision also was informed by case studies and best practices; consultation with our regional transportation operators, Caltrans, MTS, and NCTD; and interviews with private sector providers.

All of this input helped us shape the 5 Big Moves concepts and illustrate possibilities for a future transportation ecosystem that provides a better experience for everyone traveling, regardless of what mode they choose

How was the vision refined into a network? 

After forming the concept for how our future regional transportation network could look, we began framing the network. This required a series of iterative analyses in which data related to population, employment, and demographics were continually analyzed to reach the best answer to a given question—such as where a new commuter rail line might be needed most or where to situate a mobility hub. Decisions about how to form the network were based on data analysis as well as feedback from residents, professional judgment, and SANDAG’s deep knowledge of local communities and their unique needs

How were critical connections identified?

A key part of SANDAG’s early analysis was identifying how and where people travel every day. In general, we wanted to identify where people live, where they work, and how they get from one place to another.


SANDAG used a wide range of data sources—including census data, survey data, employment data, operational data collected from our roadways, and anonymous cellular data—to identify travel patterns.

We began analyzing commute trips, which tend to be the most predictable and cause the greatest congestion and delay during “rush hour.” Additionally, a third of all trips in our region are work-related and our region’s 15 largest employment centers host more than 40% of non-military jobs in the region. Analysis of connections between where people live and work allowed us to visualize the most significant commute patterns in the region. We brought in additional data sets to do the same type of analysis for non-work trips. This included analysis of trips to military bases, regional destinations like our parks and recreational sites, and where people entering San Diego county from the U.S.–Mexico border are headed. This data revealed where the highest volumes of trips occur.

Demographic data was analyzed to assess how equitable our transportation system is and how it is meeting the needs of disadvantaged communities. We also looked at our population forecast to understand the future population we need to plan for. Some key findings show:

  • Low-income and minority workers are more likely to be essential workers who depend on transit and can’t work from home.
  • 20% of people who ride transit don’t have access to a vehicle. They spend twice as long commuting via transit as people who drive.
  • Today, only 7% of our region’s low-income residents have access to fast and frequent transit.
  • 10% of our population have a disability, and many disabled people have special transportation needs that we’ve heard aren’t being met today.
  • 13% of the region’s residents will be 75 or older by 2050.

How were solutions identified?

The early goals of vision development focused on creating solutions with fast connections along corridors where the most trips occur. Refining the vision network focused on evaluating where services—and what combination of services—were most needed based on the area’s demographics and how people in that area travel. This rigorous analysis helped ensure that each service would be located where it would be needed the most to effectively enhance personal mobility while promoting regional goals for economic development and social equity, reducing greenhouse gases, and protecting the environment.

View these transportation solutions in our interactive map (English | Español) of the draft vision network:


How will the vision inform the 2021 Regional Plan?

The vision provides a framework for the 2021 Regional Plan. As work continues, the transportation network for the draft plan will be refined, a set of policies and programs will be discussed to support the infrastructure and technology improvements, and a funding scenario will be identified based on what the region can reasonably afford over the next 30 years leading up to 2050. The transportation network for the 2021 Regional Plan will undergo analysis to ensure it achieves our mobility and environmental goals.

Upcoming milestones for the 2021 Regional Plan