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.

CTC meeting dais (Jan 2020) credit: ClimatePlan

The vast majority of the state’s transportation funding has gone to highways, leaving millions of low-income communities and communities of color suffering from air pollution and struggling to get around on unsafe streets and unreliable public transportation. Historically, transportation investments built freeways that still divide low-income communities and communities of color. As low-income communities and communities of color face rent increases and displacement, affordable and reliable transportation alternatives are needed now more than ever.

In recognition  of our interconnectedness, we are urging the CTC to create an Equity Advisory Committee (EAC) to advise the joint meetings between the CTC, California Air Resource Board (CARB), and the Housing and Community Development (HCD). The EAC would partner with the CTC, CARB, and HCD to set the agenda and priorities for the joint meetings and provide holistic solutions to solving our climate crisis. These joint meetings are important right now because they are at the intersection of the climate, transportation, and housing challenges that California is facing. In addition to climate change, Californians are dealing with longer commutes, housing unaffordability, deepening inequity, poor air quality, and more congestion. Low-income communities and communities of color are being disproportionately affected by siloed planning and decision-making.  With an EAC, these meetings could provide meaningful solutions to address those challenges.  

The EAC Structure

In terms of structure, the proposed EAC would have members that represent a variety of interests and experiences. There should be at least eleven members with professional or personal experience in: 

  • Transportation
  • Transit
  • Active transportation issues 
  • Housing, affordable housing, homelessness, or rental housing issues 
  • Youth between 16 and 24 
  • Business, economic development, or workforce development 
  • Communities most impacted by significant exposure to air pollution 
  • Environmental justice organizations.
  • Regional land use 
  • Climate science, climate change, or climate adaptation 
  • Rural community issues 

The CTC has the heavy responsibility of diverting spending from the car-centric ways of the past to the multi-modal emission-reducing transit system of the future. These decisions cannot be made in a vacuum. There needs to be a holistic approach to planning and funding transportation for the future; the most equitable solution is an EAC.

Advisory Committees Have Been Done Before

CARB has convened an Environmental Justice Advisory Committee to advise on the development of their scoping plan. HCD has advisory committees that help advise them on their grant programs like the No Place Like Home Advisory Committee. All of these agencies have seen the value that advisory committees can bring to decision-making; the EAC would extend that value to the joint CTC, HCD, and CARB meetings. 

The EAC is in line with the way the CTC is already moving. With the passage of AB 179 (Cervantes), diverse commissioners have been appointed. The EAC would be a resource for the entire commission to ensure that all voices are being represented while the CTC shifts California’s transportation system to address the challenges the state is facing. 

Next Steps

ClimatePlan has submitted a letter to the Commission advocating for the creation of the EAC, and will testify in support at the CTC meeting this week. We encourage you to attend and voice your support. 

Screenshot of March 25th CTC meeting credit: CTCCalifornia Transportation Commission Meeting Details

Date: March 25, 2020


To participate, register here:

To view the live webcast:

It is not enough to hold informational hearings or informal groups. The CTC needs a committee that can provide long term guidance to the commission as they make transportation funding decisions. Those decisions need to take into consideration the communities that will be the most affected. With climate change and deepening inequity occurring across California, it is vital that the EAC and CTC work together to create innovative and equitable solutions.

Our Strategic Direction


get updates