CalSTA, the state agency that oversees all state transportation departments including Caltrans, is committed to improving conditions for transit, biking, and walking, according to its Deputy Secretary for Environmental Policy and Housing, Kate White.
“Thirty percent of all trips in California are less than a mile,” said White, testifying at a legislative hearing yesterday in Sacramento. “We want to make bicycling or walking the default for those short trips.”
White gave her testimony at a joint hearing of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing and the Assembly Committee for Environmental Quality, which was set to discuss the relationships between transportation and greenhouse gas emissions. Representatives from state agencies addressed questions about what changes need to happen for the state to reach its greenhouse gas emission reduction goals.
CalSTA, according to White, recognizes the importance of clean vehicles and clean fuels. “However,” she said, “our focus at the transportation agency is on the infrastructure and behavioral side of the coin. And that means improving transit, walking, biking, and housing to reduce vehicles miles traveled.” She highlighted three strategies the agency is focusing on:
- High speed rail, which White called “the cornerstone of electrifying transportation in California.” California expects high speed rail to replace “dirty” air trips between the Bay Area and the L.A. region. The project also includes electrifying Caltrain, which will have the added benefit of doubling the capacity of the popular Bay Area rail service.
- Supporting local transit for trips between five and a hundred miles long. The state transit account this year, said White, was for $1 billion, and the state generally contributes several hundred million dollars every year for local and regional transit.
- Active transportation. The Active Transportation Program (ATP) is investing in projects to make safe, inviting walking and biking trips an alternative to driving, especially for trips that are less than a mile. “These represent over 30 percent of all trips, and many are unfortunately still made by automobile,” said White. “A mode shift to walking and biking not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions but has many co-benefits for health, and for healthier life styles for children and families,” she added.