Shifting Hearts, Minds, and Habits: Equitable implementation of SB 743

In California and globally, we know that cars and trucks are our main source of emissions and  contribute significantly to air pollution, disproportionately impacting low-income communities and communities of color. 

Here at ClimatePlan, we think that this is an opportune time to think as big and as bold as we possibly can about the ways in which we live our day-to-day lives and how we can learn lessons from this unprecedented time. We know that a shift in culture, mindset, and will is going to be needed to transform our economic, public health, transportation, and housing systems into being more equitable and environmentally-conscious.

CalTrans SB 743 Implementation 

There are many strategies to reduce the number of miles Californians are driving day-to-day - for work, school, to shopping or the grocery store, or for leisure. One of those strategies is reducing VMT (vehicle miles traveled) through innovations in planning. In 2013, the California legislature passed Senate Bill 743 which shifts the way transportation planning happens. Instead of transportation agencies and planners evaluating LOS (Level of Service), which would prioritize how x car gets from Point A to Point B as quickly as possible, agencies and planners will now evaluate VMT. This means if we’re analyzing the transportation impacts of any new project in California, the goal will be to reduce how much people need to drive. 

maxresdefault.jpgOver the past six or so years, CalTrans has been working on the methodology to implement SB743 throughout the state. They recently released an Implementation Timing Memo for SB743 and ClimatePlan, along with a dozen of our partners, sent a letter to CalTrans with our feedback. The full letter can be seen here. Below are our three primary comments: 

1) We are encouraged by SB 743 applying to all projects on the State Highway System including those where the lead agency is a local agency partner, rather than CalTrans. This is a powerful next step towards our shared goal of reaching our 2030 GHG emission targets. 

2) We encourage Caltrans to create a threshold of significance that ensures every highway project reduces VMT proportionally to what the state must reduce VMT by in order to meet our climate goals. Right now, there isn’t a clear threshold. This will make it challenging for local jurisdictions and MPOs to ensure transportation projects are reducing emissions and achieving our GHG emission goals. Caltrans could use OPR’s guidance and standard as a threshold metric. 

3) We encourage Caltrans to think and plan holistically as SB 743 implementation moves forward and to think about how ClimatePlan’s Investment without Displacement platform can impact decision-making around implementation, specifically in the realm of infill development. The SB 743 implementation memo currently reads, “these changes to the environmental review process aim to reduce automobile dependency by supporting infill development, reducing average length of vehicle trips, and increasing use of more sustainable modes including carpooling, cycling, walking, and transit” (Caltrans Draft Implementation Timing Memo, pg. 2). For the language around infill development, we recommend the following changes (suggestions are italicized and bolded): “to reduce automobile dependency by supporting equitable infill development with tenant protections...” 

Next Steps

CalTrans has released its Draft VMT-Focused Transportation Impact Study Guide (TISG). This document will provide guidance to Caltrans Districts, lead agencies, developers and consultants regarding Caltrans’ review of a land use project or plan’s transportation analysis using a VMT metric. CalTrans also invites an informal review and feedback on the Draft TISG by close of business on March 30th. 

We, along with our network partners, look forward to continuing to work with CalTrans to implement this monumental piece of legislation that can truly help to turn the tide on how we plan in this state. As we take this time to reflect and turn inwards, we are encouraging our partners and our current administration in this state to think bigger and bolder about what can be possible in 10, 15, or 50 years in this state and we look forward to being a part of the shift that is taking place. 

New Online Information Source

We’re excited to share that a new website—sb743.orghas been created with lots of fantastic information on SB743 and its implementation. 

Some highlights: 

Five case studies examining how the new vehicle miles traveled (VMT) reduction standard in the CEQA transportation analysis would be applied to a regional shopping center, two different mixed-use developments, adding lanes to a freeway and the update of a General Plan. 

Strategies for mitigating VMT, including re-scoping the project, project and regional level mitigation strategies and  the concept of VMT offset exchange transactions.

An accredited online professional education program addressing VMT impact methods and tools, significance thresholds and mitigation strategies. The program qualifies for six hours of professional education credits for California Continuing Legal Education and the American Institute of Certified Planners Certification Maintenance. 

A resource page with links to other helpful information Dozens of articles, reports, webinars, key technical and legal documents, and other helpful information to assist in understanding and implementing SB 743. Organized by category.

 A description of the project which was a joint effort by state agencies, regional planning agencies and other organizations.

The home page, where at the bottom you will find some brief introductory videos.

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