California Transportation Commission: We need to make room for equity

Right now, there is so much uncertainty with how the state will move forward after the COVID-19 pandemic. We are seeing the coordination of resources happening at an unprecedented rate. COVID-19 is also an opportunity for reflection: is California making real progress on its climate goals? We know that California is not on target for its 2020 or 2035 greenhouse gas reduction goals. We know that there needs to be a shift in the way California prioritizes its transportation spending to get us closer to those goals. And we know achieving our greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals, if done right, can improve the wellbeing of all Californians.  

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is how interconnected everything actually is, including transportation. The transportation sector is a vital part of California; the decisions made at California Transportation Commission (CTC) meetings have daily implications for the lives of California residents. If California is to meet its climate goals, the state will need more than a thirteen person commission to weigh in on these decisions.  There needs to be a holistic approach to decide where transportation investments go that provides equitable solutions to the climate crisis.

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A Piece of the Puzzle: Electrification in San Joaquin County

The vast majority of Californians get where they need to go by driving, often by themselves, and predominantly fueled by oil. Decades of infrastructure funding built around the personal vehicle have reinforced this, promising freedom and mobility. Instead, what we have are fragmented communities, disappearing working lands, terrible air quality, inequity, housing shortages, poor health outcomes, and limited mobility choices—the very opposite of freedom. 

This is apparent in San Joaquin County, which is home to an enormous share of the megaregion’s supercommuters: 15.8% of the entire workforce drives to the Bay Area five days a week. It’s also the site of new sprawl communities built on former agricultural land, which drive some of the worst air quality and health outcomes in the state. 

We at ClimatePlan have worked with our partner organizations to address those issues, bringing together advocates and residents to look for opportunities to improve lives and the environment where climate, housing, transportation, conservation, equity, and air quality meet. Electrification has been held up as a panacea for all of our transportation challenges; it’s not. But it is a piece of the puzzle, and in San Joaquin county and its cities we see an opportunity for electrification to be deployed in a way that benefits all residents, across urban and rural communities.

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Breathing Easier: Stockton’s Work to Develop an Air Community Protection Plan

Thanks to the work of advocates, Southwest Stockton has been approved to be a part of the 2019 Community Air Protection Program (CAPP). This program stems from AB 617 (Garcia, 2017); This important air quality legislation laid the groundwork for the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to establish the CAPP to reduce the exposure and health effects in communities most impacted by air pollution. The CAPP provides funding to deploy cleaner technology and support community participation in planning. The path to CAPP funding was paved by advocates and residents' work on the Rise Stockton project and their continued engagement in their neighborhoods to build a groundswell of community support to improve the air they breathe. 

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A Letter from the Executive Director: Sharing ClimatePlan’s 2020 Emerging Policy Actions

Dear ClimatePlan partners and allies – 

Over the past month, I’ve had a few offline conversations with different partner organizations that are still processing our decision to oppose SB 50. For these partner organizations, it’s been challenging to understand why ClimatePlan—which has advocated for infill near transit and job centers for years—would oppose a bill that does exactly that. Especially in light of the failure of SB 375 to achieve its climate targets or significantly change regional growth patterns, our opposition to SB 50 stung some partners more than we expected. 

A few weeks ago, I wrote a letter explaining our decision to oppose SB 50. Now, I want to take a step back. One of the most important things that SB 50 showed me is that it’s not enough for us to share our new Strategic Direction. We at ClimatePlan need to be transparent with our network—and the broader community—on the policy actions that ClimatePlan is focusing on, and how we are moving forward in 2020. 

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A Changing California Transportation Commission

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.

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