Last week, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) released the final draft of the Scoping Plan.
While the general consensus is we had hoped for less reliance on engineered carbon capture and storage, we are excited that CARB has included bold strategies in the transportation sustainability section. Here are the top three highlights of the transportation part of the Scoping Plan.
The Top Three Highlights
CARB increased the VMT target in the Scoping Plan
In our June blog, we noted that one of the shortcomings of the draft was the low VMT target. In response to many advocate calls, CARB has at least doubled the previous VMT goal. The Scoping Plan is now proposing to reduce VMT by 25% below 2019 levels by 2030 and 30% below 2019 levels by 2045. Reducing VMT is crucial to meeting California’s climate goals and creating affordable mobility options so people can connect to their communities and jobs. And setting strong VMT goals establishes a standard for robust implementation actions.
CARB included a new strategy that called out the need for investment in public transit.
Advocates were urging CARB to include strong goals for investment in public transit, which means investing in frequent, reliable services and affordability. We are excited that CARB has included this strategy because public transit is not just an alternative to driving; it is the sole mode of transportation for some marginalized communities, including people with disabilities and communities of color. Public transit connects them to their jobs and provides access to healthcare and grocery stores; this service needs to be invested in.
The proposed strategies emphasize shifting transportation funding to multimodal options and re-evaluating our investments that solely expand roadways.
The Scoping Plan includes many strategies that ClimatePlan has advocated for, including investing in active transportation networks and ensuring land-use and transportation planning are aligned. It also includes strategies that ClimatePlan is new to advocating, such as road pricing. Below are a few strategies and actions and why they are important.
Strategy: Reimagine roadway projects that increase VMT in a way that meets community needs and reduces the need to drive.
- Action: Adjust the current project pipeline of State transportation investments and reconfigure the Caltrans planning process to rescope VMT and greenhouse-gas increasing projects.
- Importance: Some transportation projects under construction (or past the design phase) are projected to increase VMT. They will set us back in the state's climate goals because research has shown that creating more opportunities to drive increases transportation emissions. However, the challenge is that these projects were funded before the climate targets were created. (This is the project "pipeline," also called legacy project). There needs to be a process to evaluate these projects and figure out how to make them more climate friendly.
Strategy: Implement equitable roadway pricing strategies based on local context and need, reallocating revenues to improve transit, bicycling, and other sustainable transportation choices.
- Action: Permit implementation of a suite of roadway pricing strategies by 2025.
- Importance: As we transition to an electric vehicle future, we have to thoughtfully consider how to maintain a sustainable source of funding for transportation. Road pricing is a key tool to meet various transportation goals, including increasing funding, reducing vehicle miles traveled, and reducing congestion. These pricing strategies need to be designed equitably.
Strategy: Ensure alignment of land use, housing, transportation, and conservation planning in adopted regional plans
- Action: Explore measures to ensure or require greater consistency and alignment between regional RHNA allocations, SCSs, and regional plans.
- Importance: The strategy reduces transportation emissions, helps create more interconnected communities, and protects our natural and working lands from being developed. Protecting our natural working lands will be a key tool to increase California's capacity to naturally sequester carbon and meet its goal for carbon neutrality.
Next Steps: Final actions on the Scoping Plan
We can give credit where credit is due. We are encouraged that CARB has stepped up in the transportation section of the Scoping Plan. However, ClimatePlan wants to recognize that while we are pleased with the transportation sustainability sector, there are still concerns. Our environmental justice allies wrote a statement laying those out concerns here. We appreciate the leadership of the California Environmental Justice Alliance and other EJAC members in their steadfast commitment to climate justice.
Whether it is to show your appreciation or highlight your concerns, there are only two opportunities to provide comments on the Scoping Plan before the CARB board approves it on December 15th.
- The first is at the next Environmental Justice Advisory Committee meeting. It is on November 29th from 2:30- 6:00 pm and November 30th from 9:30 am to 12:00pm.
- The second is during the CARB board meeting. Board members will be hearing public comments before voting to approve the Scoping Plan.