Helping California put sustainable transportation first

In our work to help California fight climate change, transportation funding is where the rubber hits the road. Transportation funding decisions determine how much carbon will come from tailpipes and turn into greenhouse gases. ClimatePlan is working hard to shift the state’s funding priorities to actually meet the state’s sustainability goals.

 

Seeing where the dollars go and why

In November, we told you we’d won more transparency in state transportation funding. Of course, transparency is just a step toward change: we have to know where the dollars go now, in order to change where they go in the future.

Now our first opportunity to act on this increased public transparency is coming up:

Big interregional projects
Caltrans is updating its Interregional Transportation Strategic Plan (ITSP),  which prioritizes funding projects across the state. This is an opportunity to start shifting the state’s investment from highways to public transportation, because the ITSP is the vision that will determine what kinds of projects are ultimately funded.

Caltrans released a draft comparing its Vision and Goals in November, and ClimatePlan participated in Caltrans’ series of workshops and an online survey in response.

Our recommendations
ClimatePlan and our partners submitted a comment letter, in which we made the following recommendations to ensure the ITSP fully aligns with the state’s sustainability vision and goals:

Prioritize investments in interregional rail over highway widening and expansion. This is key to truly investing in more healthy, sustainable transportation.

Fully integrate active transportation, multimodality, sustainability, and equity into the vision and goals. It’s not only about highways and rail — it’s about meeting the state’s goals for sustainable, equitable transportation, and connecting with biking and walking.

Promote social equity. It’s important to consider the equitable distribution of a project’s positive impacts, such as increased accessibility, and the distribution of negative impacts, such as air pollution.

Add new objectives that focus on livability, social equity, and stewardship. Transportation projects should make neighborhoods more livable by increasing connectivity and preserving local character; distribute positive and negative impacts equitably; and protect natural resources and agricultural lands.

Advance multimodal and livable corridors to mitigate barriers and impacts to health, active transportation, and conservation. For example,  open space can be preserved along transportation corridors to provide green space as well as a pollution buffer, with comfortable places to walk and bike.

Ensure that performance measures drive project selection. Caltrans should create metrics based on these objectives and select projects according to their performance.

Commit to transparency in the Interregional Transportation Improvement Program (ITIP) review process. The ISTP is the vision for the ITIP, which is the program that actually funds the projects. Caltrans should hold convenient public ITIP workshops to let people know about all proposed projects before the few chosen for the program.

What comes next
Now, Caltrans is compiling all of the public comments – and there are a lot. Over 100 people attended the in-person workshops, more than 70 attended the webinar, and over 300 responded to the online survey.  Hooray for transparency and public participation!

Caltrans will issue its draft ITSP in “Winter 2015,” presumably by March. To stay updated on the progress of the 2015 ITSP, visit http://www.caltrans-itsp2015.org — and of course, keep reading our blog!

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