The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is entering its busy season, with a draft regional transportation plan (RTP) and sustainable communities strategy (SCS) scheduled for release this December and a final RTP/SCS to be adopted in April of 2012. This is the first RTP at SCAG that will include an SCS — a key element of the state law known as SB 375, which mandates that the state reduce transportation-related greenhouse gas emissions (by reducing driving) through transportation and land use strategies.
The SCS requires SCAG to identify land uses, densities and building intensities, and the transportation investments that will support them — and this new focus on land use has drawn the attention of many more advocates and public interest groups than ever before. These include advocates for improved public health, affordable housing and bike/pedestrian/transit investments, as well as environmentalists, developers and architects.
There is increased attention on adding performance metrics to the RTP/SCS that identify the impacts of policies and investments on public health and safety, on the affordability of housing and transportation, on environmental outcomes, and on “location efficiency” — a measure of whether locations are proximate enough that people can walk, bike and use transit to take care of daily needs and not have to drive. There’s increased interest in the bike, pedestrian and transit investments that will support compact, walkable neighborhoods — regional investments in bike and pedestrian projects are increasing by 50 percent over the 2008 RTP to $4 billion (about 1 percent of total RTP expenditures, while walk trips total 11.7 percent of all trips and bike trips total 0.9 percent).
Moreover, there are negotiations with cities in “strategic locations” near transit to take on more density, and talks with cities on the exurban fringes about downzoning. And Regional Council members and agency staff are grappling with a $45 billion shortfall in the RTP that has them talking about new revenue sources including cordon pricing in downtown Los Angeles (as in London) and transportation system user fees (such as a 2.7 cent fee for every mile driven) to help make up for the shortfall in gas tax revenues caused by more fuel-efficient cars.
The City and County of Los Angeles, with its large and growing transit system (12 new transit corridors funded by Measure R) and enough density and jobs to make it possible for people to walk and bike and ride transit — and not have to drive — is key to efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the RTP/SCS. Move LA’s top five priorities in our work with SCAG are:
· promoting walkable, mixed-use, mixed-income neighborhoods near stations and along high-frequency transit corridors;
· working with Regional Council members, elected officials and agency staff to promote regionally significant investments in transit;
· building support for new revenue sources for SCAG and the county transportation commissions;
· encouraging the adoption of TOD guidelines that ensure existing affordable housing will be preserved and new affordable housing will be built so that new lines and TOD don't displace current residents;
· supporting transit and TOD with increased investments in bike and pedestrian projects and complete streets policies to create healthy, active environments around stations.
Move LA convenes an SB 375 Southern California Working Group that meets once every 4-6 weeks to discuss emerging issues at SCAG and opportunities to weigh in. Contact Beth Steckler, firstname.lastname@example.org, if you are interested in joining us.
For an excellent graphic depiction of some of the issues at stake, download the 2012 RTP/SCS Outreach Workshop Guide, which shows the opportunity for enormous cost savings and improvements around affordability, public health, the environment, and other issues, at: