The California Transportation Commission's first meeting in 2020 says a lot about the priorities of the commission moving forward. The CTC is undergoing many changes in leadership and these changes signal that now is the opportune time to pivot from car-centric policies to multimodal solutions.
Some leadership transitions include:
- Susan Bransen, the current Executive Director will be retiring on Feb 14, 2020, after four years of service.
- Mitchell Weiss will be the new Executive Director, replacing Bransen.
- Joseph Lyou, President and CEO of Coalition for Clean Air was appointed to the commission by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.
- Paul Van Konynenburg was selected as the new chair of the commission despite his term ending February 1, 2020.
- Tamika Butler, resigned from the commission after serving only a few months, citing a conflict of interest.
We at ClimatePlan are disappointed to see Butler resign; their voice was one of a few that uplifted equity. It is important that Butler’s seat is filled with another champion for equity. When picking new commissioners, we urge the Governor to review the list of candidates submitted by ClimatePlan and our partners. Assembly Speaker Rendon newest appointment, Joseph Lyou, was one of the recommendations. Lyou has over 25 years of experience fighting for environmental health and justice.
Transportation Funding: Complex and Challenging
On the CTC’s January 2020 docket for adoption and information were key funding programs such as the Solution for Congested Corridors Program, Active Transportation Program (ATP), Trade Corridor Enhancement Program, and Local Partnership Program.
Advocacy around transportation funding advocacy is challenging; while all transportation spending is public information it can be difficult for even the most seasoned advocate to keep track of all the programs and their funding formulas.
It’s important for the public to understand transportation funding because transportation accounts for both ten percent of the state’s budget and forty percent of the state’s emissions. For years, ClimatePlan and our partners have been advocating for better alignment between our spending and our climate goals in a way that uplifts communities that have suffered from historical oppression, disinvestment, and displacement.
If we want better alignment of the state’s transportation funding with the state’s ambitious goals on climate, equity, and health, two things must happen:
- Transparency in transportation funding, and
- Amplifying community voices.
Better Transparency for Transportation Funding
However, some transportation programs are easier to track than others. At the commission meeting, the ATP received comments from many advocacy groups. ClimatePlan partner organizations California Bicycle Coalition, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, and California Walks have been working with others to shape this program since its inception. They’ve provided comments on the guidelines, met with ATP staff, and called attention to projects that embody the potential of the program.
Other programs, like Solutions for Congested Corridors, are not as easy to understand. The program’s goal is to identify and analyze the most congested regional corridors and alleviate congestion. Statutory language specifies allows road widening only when adding HOV lanes, providing alternative routes, and other types of non-general purpose lanes (e.g., transit-only lanes). While ClimatePlan has worked with other partners to provide comments on this program, it has not seen the same level of community engagement as the Active Transportation Program. At the January meeting, it received far fewer comments than the ATP. One reason for the low level of community engagement is the challenging complexity of the program.
The Solutions for Congested Corridor Program is not the only program that is convoluted. According to LAO, California spends $23.5 billion on transportation—most of it being too complicated to track. Between the multiple agencies and programs, it is difficult to track where the state’s transportation dollars are being spent. In 2018, ClimatePlan created a fact sheet to begin to break down transportation spending; in the coming months, we will be updating this document to reflect how transportation dollars are being allocated in 2020.
Amplifying Community Voices
As we mentioned above, the ATP continues to have strong and consistent engagement from advocates and communities. Before giving comments on the ATP, advocates huddled together to strategize. The coordinated effort ensured that multiple groups were driving home the same points around meeting emission targets, giving communities options, and listening to the voices that have historically not been considered. While ClimatePlan and partners can—and will—continue to provide comments to the agency, there needs to be an empowered, collective voice that holds the CTC accountable and makes sure transportation funding programs reflect California’s diverse communities, their needs, and priorities.
When advocates attend meetings and make public comments it has a real impact. Much of that work is reactive. ClimatePlan and our partners are fighting uphill against policies that are already developed or in place. Even when we are a part of the guidelines process we are providing input to already crafted recommendations. ClimatePlan recommends that there be an environmental justice advisory committee, or EJAC, that can be a consistent voice that influences policies before they’re on the books. This EJAC would ensure advocates have a seat at the table from the very beginning of the process.
In the coming months, ClimatePlan is working towards creating more clarity in transportation spending and creating a seat at the table for advocates. If you are interested in either of these please reach out to nailah AT climateplanca DOT org.