The region’s first draft Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS), released December 1 by the Southern California Association of Governments, shows that the region will meet its 2020 greenhouse gas reduction target and exceed the 2035 target, double the number of people who live near high-quality transit, and reduce traffic congestion — despite the fact that the population is expected to grow by 4 million by 2035.
Development of the SCS is mandated by SB 375, the state law that requires regions to plan for transportation investments and land use strategies that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This has given SCAG an opportunity to promote more walkable communities, transit, bike and pedestrian projects that reduce VMT (vehicle miles traveled) and, therefore, GHG emissions. It is the first SCS developed by SCAG, and must be integrated with the regional transportation plan (RTP), which SCAG develops every four years.
“The draft RTP/SCS shows the region is on track to meet air quality and GHG reduction goals, and to provide people with more choices about where to live and how to get around,” said Denny Zane, executive director of Move LA. “It also shows cities have been doing good planning, which will put Southern California ahead of national trends in the real estate market and the energy economy.”
“Clearly somebody’s been paying attention,” added Amanda Eaken, NRDC’s deputy director of sustainable communities. “This plan reflects the market realities of the 21st Century: Most people want to live closer to their jobs and shops, and don’t want to spend hours stuck in the car or looking for parking. This plan gives us more choices to get out of our cars and the freedom to spend the time and money on more enjoyable activities.”
The draft RTP/SCS proposes that the region increase transit investments by 13 percent and triple the funding for bike and pedestrian projects. It plans for the build-out of 12 new rail lines funded by Measure R; plans new bus rapid transit projects in Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties; proposes enhancement of Metrolink service with the goal of doubling Metrolink ridership; proposes to increase bike and pedestrian project funding from $1.8 billion to $6 billion; and plans to fix 12,000 miles of sidewalks.
The draft RTP/SCS was developed with information taken from cities’ General Plans, and shows that cities throughout the region have been doing the kind of “smart growth” planning for a number of years that will help the region cope with rising gas prices and respond to the changing real estate market: The RTP/SCS shows that the percentage of new housing that will be apartments or townhomes — rather than single family homes — will increase from 39 percent in the last 25 years to 68 percent in the next 25 years. The plan also shows that the number of new homes that will be built in neighborhoods with high-quality transit will increase from 34 percent of all homes to 51 percent. The number of new jobs near transit will increase from 39 percent to 53 percent. The plan also shows that this more compact development will save 400 square miles of open space.
The plan projects other significant benefits, including:
• Providing for transportation improvements that will create 4.2 million jobs;
• Reducing VMT (vehicle miles traveled) by 10 percent;
• Increasing investment in public transit by 13 percent;
• Resulting in savings of $3,400 annually in costs for autos, fuels, water, energy;
• Saving $5 billion in infrastructure costs to local governments;
• Saving $1.5 billion in health costs.
A final plan will be adopted by SCAG’s 84-member Regional Council in April of 2012. SCAG is the nation’s largest metropolitan planning organization, representing six counties, 191 cities, and more than 18 million residents. The plan is available on SCAG’s website.