Bringing environmental justice to Southern California’s transportation planning

On November 20, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is holding its first Environmental Justice Workshop. This is an exciting opportunity to improve health, prosperity, and access for disadvantaged communities across California’s largest region.

ClimatePlan and our partners aim to strengthen the Environmental Justice section of the 2016 Regional Transportation Plan / Sustainable Communities Strategy (RTP/SCS) so that as the region invests transportation dollars over the years to come, it does so in a way that prioritizes social equity.

If you can attend this workshop, please share the points below.
Workshop details here — in LA and by videoconference.

Here’s what ClimatePlan and our partners would like to see to fulfill the potential of this new Environmental Justice (EJ) component in Southern California’s transportation planning:

1) Expand the EJ Outreach Process to reach additional stakeholders and ensure they are a part of the 2016 RTP/SCS development:
– Host additional workshops in SCAG region, specifically in Inland Empire, Imperial County and in Orange County. Reach out to local EJ stakeholders to ensure a diversity of stakeholders attend.
– Integrate Environmental Justice and Equity Issues in the Economic Summit on December 4. Ensure there is ample participation from EJ stakeholders in this process.

2) Integrate EJ Performance Measures into scenario performance measures and County Transportation Plans
– Increase the integration of EJ performance measures into SCAG and CTC (County Transportation Commission) processes: specifically, scenario planning and County Transportation Plans.

3) Add (or modify) the current EJ Performance Metrics so they accurately assess disproportionate impacts to minorities and low-income communities
– Create specific performance targets to strengthen the performance metrics. More progress on performance measures could be made if a target/goal were included for each metric.
– Stratify rural data, and provide separate rural analysis: Given the specific environmental justice challenges facing the region’s rural communities, the performance measures should be stratified by and separately address rural areas, and provide separate analysis of each measure in these areas.

4) Provide a more comprehensive analysis of transportation cost/benefit to EJ Communities with the following modifications to the 2012 performance measures:
– RTP/SCS Revenue Sources In Terms of Tax Burdens—Expand this metric to include not just tax burden, but total transportation cost burden by income quintile. To the extent possible, this metric should include cost of informal transportation use, including rideshare, taxis, and Uber.
– Impacts of Proposed VMT Fees—We recommend including a further analysis of all fees that will fund RTP projects in the SCAG region—i.e., cost burden for measure A. Include Impact Fees and Sales Tax Measures)

5) Develop an analysis of disparate impact of pollution burden by race/ethnicity:
– If impacts were distributed equally across the population in the SCAG region, the proportion of each racial/ethnic group in each decile would be equal to its overall proportion in the SCAG region.
– Hispanic/Latinos and African Americans disproportionately reside in highly impacted communities while other groups tend to reside disproportionately in less impacted communities. Whites are over-represented in the least burdened communities.
– Scientific research indicates that the relationship between pollutant exposure, stress, and health outcomes can vary based on the race and ethnicity of a geographic area.

To further strengthen the role of Environmental Justice in the RTP/SCS, we recommend the following additions:

1) Displacement and Gentrification: The EJ performance measures should be expanded to include measures of gentrification/ displacement. Possible measures for inclusion:
– % of new housing development with affordable housing
– Preservation of affordable housing
– Cities with anti-displacement policies
– Tracking the net loss of homes occupied by lower-income households

2) Climate adaptation and resilience: We know that climate change will be an increasing challenge to Environmental Justice communities during the project timeline for the 2016 RTP SCS. The performance measures should be expanded to include climate resilience measures such as:
– Tree canopy
– Air conditioning access

Additional tools for climate resilience: We further recommend expanding the Environmental Justice toolbox to include climate resilience strategies such as:
– Integrating urban forestry into the built environment;
– Increasing tree and vegetative cover;
– Creating green roofs (also called “rooftop gardens” or “eco-roofs”);
– Installing cool—mainly reflective—roofs;
– Using cool pavements;
– Coordinating emergency response and transportation resources available to vulnerable communities and populations such as the elderly and the physically disabled.

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