This is a follow-on to my Wednesday post on the CEQA Guidelines update/reform: CEQA VMT reform has a fatal flaw.
Four organizations spoke at the hearing:
- Climate Resolve (Ella): spoke against exemption, spoke about equity and displacement, mentioned request to Caltrans to use VMT instead of LOS
- City of San Jose: spoke against transportation exemption, apparently submitted letter signed by other cities but I didn’t catch which ones; San Jose recently adopted VMT as their measure for transportation and development (Streetsblog Cal: San Jose Becomes Fourth California City to Adopt VMT as Metric for Traffic Impacts)
- Coalition for Clean Air: spoke to reducing VMT as the best path to reducing emissions
- California Bicycle Coalition (Linda): spoke about equity and displacement issues, on need to monitor and determine consistency, spoke against exemption
And I spoke, the sole citizen speaker:
- I reject the language in 15064.3, Subdivision (b)(2), which exempts transportation from any requirement to use VMT rather than LOS.
- Overall, the changes will affect development in a positive way, encouraging infill and discouraging greenfield development, however, transportation drives greenfield development drives rather than greenfield development driving transportation, so the overall benefit will be much lessened by the transportation exemption.
- Transportation is the largest single contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in California (about 39%), but this language does little to address transportation
- The draft guidelines specifically say “this provision does not prohibit capacity expansion.” But capacity expansion is the largest single contributor to exist and future emissions. This is exactly the issue that most needs to be solved
- In the Sacramento region, nearly every county and city will continue to use LOS rather than VMT, with the possible exception of Sacramento city and Davis. Even the discussion of a possible change had most transportation ‘professionals’ and politicians up in arms.
- Though it did not talk about it, the draft clearly contravenes the intent of the legislature in SB 743, which was to kill LOS.
I hope that there is enough opposition on the transportation issue that the agencies will come back with a better proposal, but if not, the legislature will have to come back to the issue again. If this exemption stands, the state cannot possibly meet its greenhouse gas reduction targets.
I’ve commented on the California Office of Planning and Research’s (OPR) Updating Transportation Impacts Analysis in the CEQA Guidelines: Preliminary Discussion Draft of Updates to the CEQA Guidelines Implementing Senate Bill 743 (Steinberg, 2013), below. OPR’s page is Developing Alternatives to Level of Service, which includes the downloadable discussion draft. Climate Plan has a good if too brief analysis at Support a stronger law to reduce greenhouse gases and fight climate change! If there are other good resources, please let me know.
The deadline for comments is this Friday, November 21!
- I completely agree with removal of level of service analysis and the statement “A project’s effect on automobile delay does not constitute a significant environmental impact.”
- I fully support subdivision (b)(1) use of VMT analysis.
- I fully support subdivision (b)(2) which states that “For example, projects that are primarily designed to improve safety or operations would not typically be expected to create significant impacts. The same is true of pedestrian, bicycle and transit projects, including those that require reallocation or removal of motor vehicle lanes.”
- I fully support Subdivision (b)(4) which states that “a lead agency would be expected to consider vehicle miles traveled that extend beyond the lead agency’s political boundaries.”
- Appendix E: Estimating VMT From Roadway Capacity Increasing Projects (of the discussion draft) is useful and has an appropriate level of detail for initial use, but detail and specificity may need to be increased in the future.
- The draft uses the terms “major transit stops” and “high quality transit corridors” without defining the terms. What frequency of service, hours of service, or ridership at that particular stop would define a “major transit stop?” What defines a “high quality transit corridor?” Rail? BRT? Regular bus service? Ridership?For example, bus service on 30 or 60 minutes headways, or running only during commute hours or only during the day time, certainly does not qualify as a “high quality transit service.” A bus service sign by the side of the road, without any associated facilities such as seating, shelter, transit signing, trash can, and perhaps bicycle racks, does not qualify as a “major transit stop.”
Using the terms without more specific definition might encourage some agencies to claim exemption when it really doesn’t apply. As an example, some agencies have claimed that a development is “transit oriented development” when it is not oriented to transit at all but simply located in proximity to transit. I can imagine that some agencies would make similar claims about “major transit stops” and “high quality transit service.”