Yesterday I attended the Transportation Choices Summit, sponsored by TransForm, at the Sacramento Library Tsakopoulos Galleria. The purpose of the summit was to bring together advocates and others in the areas of transportation, health, and housing. Speakers were Brian Kelly, Acting Secretary, CA Business, Transportation & Housing Agency, Mary Nichols, Chair, California Air Resources Board, and James Corless, Director, Transportation for America. There were plenary panels on Building California’s Future, and Cap & Trade Auction Revenues to Support Sustainable Communities. Breakout sessions were held on a variety of issues.
Since funding for transportation at both the state and federal level is declining and still focused on motor vehicle capacity over walking, bicycling and transit, the most interesting opportunity is to use money generated by the Climate Cap-and-Trade program to fund transportation projects that have the triple bottom line of environment, economy and equity. There will be a hearing by the California EPA Air Resources Board on Thursday, April 25, including the draft investment plan, and there will continue to be conversations on this topic at least through June.
Brian Kelly supported the merging of various programs into the Active Transportation program, in order to make is “central to transportation,” however, the no one is talking about changing the funding to match. He also talked about the gathering of all the transportation-related departments under a Transportation Agency, to occur July 1. These are Caltrans, DMV, CHP, Office of Traffic Safety, California Transportation Commission, California High-Speed Rail, and ports. This gathering may cause the entities to work more closely with each other and to adopt similar goals over time. At least that is the intent.
Several housing and transportation advocates cautioned the group to make sure that in expanding transit and making places more walkable and bikeable, we don’t displace the very people that we intended to serve with these improvements.
I attended the active transportation breakout, which was not very useful, and the heath breakout, which was a great review of the strong connections between our transportation system and built environment, and the health of citizens particularly in air quality and physical activity.
As with all conferences, the most valuable part was not the presentations and formal discussions, but the informal discussions that happen in between, when people working in the field get to share ideas and experiences.
On Monday there were three tours to look at Sacramento area transportation facilities and issues. Today is an advocacy day, with visits to legislators and staff, to discuss the same issues raised in the summit.