Disadvantaged Communities in California, as measured by CalEnviroScreen. For detailed maps by census tract, go to this website. Image: CalEPA.
The end of summer has become Public Workshop Season in California. With new funding coming from the state’s cap-and-trade system in several categories, state agencies are figuring out how to best spend that money, and the first step is asking for help in creating guidelines for eligible projects.
Last week the Strategic Growth Council held workshops on guidelines for the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program.
This week and next the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) will ask for help figuring out how to define “disadvantaged communities,” which by law must benefit from a proportion of projects funded by cap-and-trade money (more about this below).
Last week and this week, the California State Transportation Agency is hosting input sessions for the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program ($25 million, and 10 percent of future cap-and-trade proceeds) and the Low-Carbon Transit Operations Program ($25 million and 5 percent of future proceeds).
These somewhat overlapping efforts are all supposed to demonstrate reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) to move California towards the climate change goals of SB 32, which requires a reduction in GHGs to 1990 levels by 2020.
It’s all new: the funding source, the program intentions, the attempts to measure GHG reductions, and the collaborations required between agencies, operators, and government sectors.
Transit Capital and Operations Funding
The low turnout at Friday’s workshop on transit funds—the first of three—may have been due to lack of publicity or maybe the amount of money available ($50 million total for all of CA) does not add up to much for individual agencies. There are more than a hundred transit agencies, large and small, throughout the state. While the Intercity Rail portion will be allocated to particular projects, the Low-Carbon Transportation Fund will be divided up according to existing state funding formulas.
Only $25 million spread statewide for operations funding means that small agencies in areas with low populations and low farebox revenues are likely to see only very small amounts of money. For some, this will be less than $100—at least in this first year.
That’s hardly enough to enhance or expand services to increase mode share, as required by the allocation.
And it may not be worth the effort at all, if reporting requirements are anything more than a simple check-box. A number of those attending the workshop requested that administrators keep the process as simple as possible so as not to cause more work for small and understaffed agencies.
The last workshop on transit funding will be in L.A. this Wednesday, August 27, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
at the Metro Board Room. Written comments on transit funding can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
What Qualifies as a “Disadvantaged Community”?
CalEPA workshops this week and next on defining “disadvantaged communities” will play a crucial role in deciding how to allocate cap-and-trade funds. Overall, at least 25 percent of all cap-and-trade funds must be spent in, or somehow benefit, a disadvantaged community. In the case of the Affordable Housing/Sustainable Communities category, half of funds must benefit these communities.
So the definition of “disadvantaged community” is pretty important. Read more…