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CA’s Regional Agencies Tout Increased Ped Safety Funding in Sacramento

Panelists at the Peds Count Summit: Ahron Hakimi, KernCOG, Mike McKeever, SACOG, Ken Kirky, MTC, Huasha Liu, SCAG, Kome Ajise, Caltrans, and Charles Stoll, SANDAG

Panelists at the Peds Count Summit: Mike McKeever, SACOG, Ken Kirky, MTC, Huasha Liu, SCAG, Kome Ajise, Caltrans, and Charles Stoll, SANDAG. Photo: Melanie Curry

The Peds Count! 2014 Summit kicked off in Sacramento with a panel of top-level executives from regional planning agencies celebrating their accomplishments in improving conditions for pedestrians.

The speakers represented an alphabet soup of major metropolitan transportation agencies in California: SANDAG, the San Diego Association of Governments; SACOG, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments; SCAG, Southern California Association of Governments; KernCOG, the Kern Council of Governments; and MTC, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission from the San Francisco Bay Area.

The summit, the third bi-annual conference organized by CaliforniaWalks, brings together advocates and planners from throughout the state to discuss the current state of research, policy, and innovation in the realm of planning for pedestrians in California’s cities and counties.

According to the California Household Travel Survey, the number of walking trips has doubled since 2000, to 16.6 percent of all trips reported. However, less than one percent of transportation funding in the state goes towards improvements for active transportation (walking and bicycling). In addition, pedestrian safety goals were not included in a recent Federal Highway Administration proposal on new performance measures for national highways.

But the agency executives at the conference celebrated the progress that was made, and challenged pedestrian advocates to build support to make it easier for agencies to do more.

Read more…

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Feds. Coming to Town to Talk SCAG, Regional Planning

Four years have passed since the last time the Federal Highway Administration and Federal Transit Administration conducted a certification review and evaluation of the region’s transportation planning process carried out by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) and its partners, and that means it’s time for the process to begin again.

Don't let these guys dominate our regional planning discussions.

Don’t let these guys dominate our regional planning discussions.

A fairly full explanation of this process and its significance was prepared by me the last time this little exercise was undertaken. The process includes a public listening session which will be held February 5, 2014 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at SCAG’s offices, 818 West 7th Street, 12th Floor. Video conferencing will be available at SCAG’s Regional Offices for adjacent counties

The listening session is in Downtown Los Angeles across from the 7th/Metro station for the Blue/Expo and Red/Purple lines. Comments can also be submitted in writing or via e-mail. Details are posted on the SCAG website.

In 2009′s session the main attendees at the hearing were disgruntled residents of Sierra Madre who attended at the urging on an online blog known as the Tattler. Here is a recent example of its continual inveighing against SCAG.

While, I am no SCAG apologist, it doesn’t seem the Tattler is concerned about urban planning. Read more…

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Judge Rules Transportation Plan in San Diego Violates State Enviro. Laws

A superior court judge rules the modeling that shows that SANDAG's freeway friendly long-term plan violates state law. Image: San Diego Personal Injury Lawyers

When it was passed last March, the long-term transportation plan was hailed as “visionary” for its investment in transit, bicycling and pedestrian projects. The plan was the first regional plan passed under S.B. 375, a landmark piece of legislation that mandated that transportation plans be tied to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. And San Diego leadership was proud.

A few local voices fought back, arguing that the green transportation investments were all in the latter years of the thirty year plan. Proposed investments in new toll lanes would not bring the air quality benefits planners promised. They filed suit. The established powers laughed. Then, the State Attorney General joined the suit. All of a sudden, the lawsuit was front page news.

Today, Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor ruled today that the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) violated state law by failing to fully account for, and take steps to reduce, climate pollution in its environmental review of the region’s long-term transportation plan in the environmental review of the Long Term Plan. The ruling is a major rebuke to regional planners in the San Diego region and a warning shot to other regional planning organizations that just passing a plan and calling it green is no longer enough.

“The court is setting an important example here for regional planning agencies throughout California,” said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California. “We cannot wait another 40 years to adopt sensible transportation and land-use policies. Thanks to California laws requiring public agencies to be open about their plans, we were able to hold SANDAG accountable for its faulty planning practices.”

SANDAG must now conduct new environmental review for its 2050 plan to ensure it adequately addresses the risk of climate change. The plaintiffs believe it is likely that the more rigorous environmental review will lead to a revised plan that does a better job of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as required by state law. Read more…

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“This Plan Will Make Air Pollution a Relic of Our History”

Earlier today, the Southern California Association of Governments unanimously passed the 2015-2035 Long Range Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy to guide local transportation planning and investment in the six county region SCAG oversees.  While past SCAG plans have focused on building out the highway network, this plan conforms to new state laws requiring that transportation planning leads to a reduction in greenhouse gas and focuses much more on transit expansion.

It's hard to believe any regional plan would actually end L.A.'s notorious air pollution problems, but Denny Zane is not known for thinking small. Photo:pollution articles.

“This is a game-changing plan for Southern California. It will create thousands of jobs and make air pollution a relic of our history,” said Denny Zane, executive director of Move L.A. “Southern California should be competitive with any metropolitan area in the world.  We already have the best weather.”

In 2008, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed  SB 375 into law which required that regional land use and transportation plans bring about measurable changes in Greenhouse Gas emissions.  The first regional plan passed under this law was by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) and is now being challenged in court for placing too much emphasis on highway expansion, albeit in the form of high occupancy toll lanes.

Local experts praise the SCAG plan as an improvement not just over past efforts, but also over the SANDAG plan.  In particular, the plan will : Read more…

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SCAG Transportation Committee Meets to Discuss Regional Plan One Last Time

What make a good regional transportation plan?

This question has become a complicated one in recent years as a new legislative mandate requires that the regional bodies responsible for creating these plans, plans which decide the funding direction for large parts of the state, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and again by 2035.  We’ve already seen how a plan hailed for its progressiveness upon passage by the San Diego Association of Governments now finds itself in court, with the state’s attorney siding with the plaintiffs.

The current round of regional plans will direct funding until 2050 and are the first ones passed since the passage of the state’s greenhouse gas reduction law in 2008.

Soon the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) will have its chance to finalize a regional plan.  An important step in that process will happen later this morning, when SCAG’s Transportation Committee meets to discuss the plan for the last time before it’s 83 member board of directors votes on the plan next month.  Rarely does SCAG meetings or plans attract as much attention, but, spurred by the Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership, Move L.A. and local groups such as VC Cool, hundreds of people have commented on the plan either asking for greater investment in transit, or active transportation.

This has led to two camps forming within transportation reformers.  On one hand, Move L.A. is praising the plan with few conditions.  An op/ed by Move L.A.’s Gloria Ohland (also a Streetsblog contributor) lays out the positives of the plan.  Ohland’s full piece appears at the end of this article: Read more…

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Send a Love Letter to Better Transportation & Land Use

Why you should comment on the draft SCAG 2012-2035 regional transportation plan/ sustainable communities strategy.

What is the RTP?

To read the plan in its entirety, click on the image.

The SCAG 2012 to 2035 Regional Transportation Plan/ Sustainable Communities Strategy  is a $525 billion, 23 year transportation and land use blueprint for the six county, expected-to-grow-to 22 million person Southern California Associations of Governments region. The 230 page draft report446 page list of projects to fund, 642 page environmental impact report, and numerous appendixes lay out a vision for transportation and land use in the greater Los Angeles region along with a plan to raise and spend over $520 billion to maintain, operate and expand transportation infrastructure through 2035.

Comments on the draft plan are due by 5pm on Valentine’s day, February 14, 2012. I’d encourage everyone interested in the future of streets, transit, sustainability or the built environment in the region to submit comments by emailing RTP@scag.ca.gov While not everything in the draft plan will get implemented, the RTP is a strong indicator of how transportation agencies, counties and cities will prioritize investments in transportation. If there are harmful or wasteful projects slated to be funded, you should encourage SCAG to drop them. If you want local governments to prioritize different transportation investment, you should let SCAG know. If you have ideas for other ways to improve mobility, to raise funds to pay for transportation, to encourage more sustainable land uses (especially housing patterns and locations), or otherwise transform how we move people and products, let them know.

I hope that some Streetsblog readers will check out the project list to see and comment on what is planned – and what is left out- for your part of the region and/or for the transportation sector(s) that you know best. For my comments, which I summarize below, I’ve tried to focus on the improved mobility and more sustainable neighborhoods that I hope to see evolve over the next 25 years. If the draft plan moves us in that direction, I’ll acknowledge the positive elements of the plan. Where the draft plan falls short or moves in the wrong direction, I’ll suggest changes.

A Vision for the Future

So what are some compelling but achievable long term visions for transportation and land use in the region? Mine would include: Read more…

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How Will A.G.’s Legal Stand Against SANDAG Impact Local Planning

(Last week, we covered the surprise announcement from Attorney General Kamala Harris to join a lawsuit against the San Diego Association of Governments’ regional plan.  If you haven’t already done so, you can read that story, here.)

If there aren't changes to SCAG's plans, will there be another lawsuit? Time will tell.

When Attorney General Kamala Harris announced her office was supporing a lawsuit against the allegedly progressive long-term transportation plan passed by the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), it sent ripples through the transportation advocacy community.  Harris bluntly claimed that SANDAG can’t meet Greenhouse Gas goals set by state law by building highways now and other transportation options later.  She also noted the low amount of funding going towards walking and bicycling in the plan.

Locally, activists hope that the Attorney General’s decision influences long range planning at the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG.)  The numbers and planning strategies between the SCAG draft plan and the embattled “final” plan at SANDAG are similar enough that the threat of another lawsuit looms large unless the SCAG plan undergoes some changes.

Read more…

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AG Joins Lawsuit Against Highway-Friendly “Transit Plan” in San Diego

When the San Diego Association of Governments passed its regional transportation plan, which will direct transportation spending in the region for decades, the agency hailed the plan as a national model.  This was the first plan passed that followed the standards of SB 375, the California environmental law that set greenhouse gas reduction targets based on transportation and development planning.


Kamala Harris

The agency declared victory, but many local advocates weren’t convinced.

“If this is a national and regional model, we’re in bad shape,” Dough McFetridge of the Cleveland National Forest Foundation grumbled to Streetsblog last November.  ”We have a need — a tremendous need — for transit right now, today. This proposal puts funding transit off into so far in to the future that many of us won’t be around anymore.”

McFetridge and other environmental groups pressed forward with a lawsuit claiming that the EIR for the plan was flawed because it didn’t take into account the impact new highway construction would have on vehicles miles traveled.  This week their lawsuit received a major boost when California Attorney General Kamala Harris joined their efforts.

“The 3.2 million residents of the San Diego region already suffer from the seventh worst ozone pollution in the country,” said Harris in a press release. “Spending our transit dollars in the right way today will improve the economy, create sustainable jobs and ensure that future generations do not continue to suffer from heavily polluted air.”

The lawsuit argues that the environmental review of the transit plan did not adequately analyze the public health impacts of the increased air pollution. The San Diego region already has a very high risk of cancer from particulate matter emitted by diesel engines and vehicles and there is no analysis as to whether this risk will increase.  By prioritizing highway expansion in the first years of the plan, SANDAG claims more pedestrian, bicycle and transit expansion in the plan even though those plans may never happen.  The bulk of the investment in transit and active transportation begins decades from now.

“The attorney general’s intervention in this case supports our argument that SANDAG’s plan is deeply flawed,” said Kathryn Phillips of the Sierra Club.  ”We’re encouraged that the State of California is serious about limiting air pollution and climate change pollution created by transportation in the region.”

Read more…

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Ventura’s Cool Video Calling for More Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding

This Spring, the Southern California Association of Governments, representing 191 municipalities, 6 counties and over 18 million people, will vote on its regional transportation plan for the next three decades. The plan will direct how billions of dollars are spent, and currently only 1.3% of the budget is dedicated towards bicycle and pedestrian funding combined despite 21% of all trips being done on foot or on bike.

For advocates of green transportation, that dedication is woefully low.  Activists, from Transportation for Alternatives to the Safe Routes to School’s National Partnership to bicycle and pedestrian groups in Los Angeles have all called for SCAG to increase their bicycle and pedestrian funds to 5-8% of the budget.

And it’s not just new urbanists making the case anymore. The above video, simple, straightforward and effective, was produced by VC Cool, a Ventura County organization fighting global warming through better policy. At its website, VC Cool explains why clean transportation is just as important to those living in the suburbs as it is new urbanists.

…there are so many reasons our communities desperately need to switch to “Active Transportation.” From childhood obesity and diabetes, to the climate change crisis, to rising gas prices in a struggling economy, we need safe, viable bicycle and pedestrian routes. We simply cannot afford to wait another four years to start working on the solution!

If you agree with VC Cool, they’ve set up a petition to ask that cyclists and pedestrians get their fare share and you can sign it, here.

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Can Greater L.A. Ever Embrace Cleaner Transportation? Regional Plan Says, “Yes, We Will”

In 2008, the State of California passed SB 375, a landmark environmental law that aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through better planning.  The state mandated that each of the mega-regions come up with a plan to reduce emissions by completing transit projects, mandating more walkable and bikeable communities and by developing walkable mixed-use communities.  At the time, critics complained that reaching these goals would be painful at best or just undoable at worst.

To read the plan in its entirety, click on the image.

But thanks to the passage of Measure R by L.A. County voters later that year and a new focus on building mixed use communities with improved bicycle and pedestrian networks, Los Angeles County and the surrounding counties can will meet those standards.   The region’s first draft Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS), released today by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), 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.

The draft plan shows increases transit investments by 13 percent and even as the federal legislature debate slashing funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects, the Southern California region will triple.  The current long term plan shows a $1.8 billion investment in people powered transportation, but SCAG proposes over tripling that total to $6 billion. the funding for bike and pedestrian projects. On the transit side, it plans for the build-out of 12 new rail lines and other Measure R projects.  For the rest of the region: bus rapid transit projects in Orange, San Bernardino and Riverside counties and enhanced Metrolink service with the goal of doubling Metrolink ridership.

SCAG hardly has a reputation for progressive transportation planning, but in recent years that reputation has slowly begun the change.  Today, environmentalists and progressive transportation reformers alike praised the new draft plan for being a crucial step in creating a sustainable Southern California.

“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.” Read more…