California Leaders Making Moves

Congratulations to two of our partners (and former National Partnership California Senior Policy Managers) who made big professional moves this month: Jeanie Ward-Waller, Policy Director of CalBike, will be leading the Sustainability Program at CalTrans, and Chanell Fletcher will be the Director at ClimatePlan after serving as Associate Director since January 2016. Jeanie and Chanell have been tireless and effective advocates for equitable active transportation in California for many years, and we’re proud to have had them in our ranks. ClimatePlan and CalTrans will benefit enormously from their leadership, and we look forward to working with them in their new roles.

State Legislation Progresses

We are tracking progress on several pieces of state legislation:

  • We are pleased at the passage of AB 390 (Santiago), which amends traffic law to clarify that pedestrians may enter an intersection and cross during a flashing countdown signal as long as they reach the other end of the intersection before the hand or “Don’t Walk” signal goes steady. This bill marks a big shift towards decriminalizing walking in the state and ending the regressive enforcement of perfectly safe pedestrian crossings, which disproportionately affects the poor and communities of color. We urge Governor Brown to sign it.
  • The Governor, Assembly, and Senate have come to an agreement on this year’s allocation of the 40 percent of Cap and Trade proceeds subject to annual budget negotiation. We were disappointed, but not surprised, that the Active Transportation Program was not included; decision makers in Sacramento had made clear that they believe the ATP was “taken care of” through the additional $100M/year provided by SB1. We were also disappointed that there was no funding for free or discounted transit passes for students. We do applaud the inclusion of $20 million for Urban Forestry, which is a key tool for making cycling and walking in urban areas more comfortable and safer.

National Partnership staff is in Sacramento for a two-day campaign planning and spokesperson training for SB 760, which would reform CalTrans’ State Highway Operation and Protection Program (SHOPP) to ensure that when state highways in urban areas—which in many cases are also local streets and roads—are repaired, rebuilt, or redesigned, the safety of everyone who uses the street is considered, from design to completed project. We will be coordinating with allies across the state to ensure passage of the bill in the State Senate in January, after which we will dedicate the rest of the legislative session to pushing it through the Assembly.

Dozens of New Active Transportation Projects Funded

Earlier this year, the SB1 transportation bill included an extra $100 million each year for the Active Transportation Program. And those funds are already making their way to communities in need: 54 cities and counties have been newly funded. In this augmentation cycle, Caltrans reconsidered applications from the 2017 cycle, and were able to fund projects that scored a 79 or higher (the prior cut-off was 89). This serves as yet more proof that there is no shortage of worthy active transportation projects throughout the state; it’s only a question of finding enough resources to fund them all. While we are grateful for the additional money made available by SB 1, we will continue to advocate for more funding in future cycles, which will be necessary for the state to achieve its goal of doubling the rate of walking and tripling the rate of cycling.

Implementation of SB1 Transportation Law Moves Ahead

The California Transportation Commission (CTC) continued public workshops to get input on guidelines for the many grant programs created by this year’s transportation funding bill, SB 1. On July 21, CTC staff came to Los Angeles for stakeholder input into the Congested Corridors and Local Partnership programs. We are pleased that the Congested Corridors program will seek to reduce congestion by emphasizing people rather than just cars–meaning that solutions like biking and walking that reduce congestion would be eligible. However, we are concerned that CTC’s plan to create separate formulaic grant pools in the name of geographic equity misses an opportunity to steer funds to communities enduring the worst pollution, regardless of the size of the MPO in which they are located. We will keep working to influence SB1’s implementation, and will keep you posted as funding opportunities arise.

Cap-and-Trade Renewal Passes, But With Concerning Provisions

As has been widely reported, on July 18, the Legislature passed the climate bill AB 398 which extends the state’s cap-and-trade program through 2030. The extension was approved by a two-thirds majorities in both houses, a margin sought by Governor Brown to stave off potential constitutional challenges. Revenues from the cap-and-trade system are deposited into the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund, which in turn funds in part or in whole several programs that the National Partnership advocates for due to their ability to fund active transportation. This includes a portion of the Active Transportation Program, as well as critical grant programs for transit capital and affordable housing that can include active transportation in eligible projects. We are relieved that allocations to these programs will be extended along with the cap-and-trade system, as early negotiations indicated that legislators were considering ending those investments in favor of returning cap-and-trade proceeds to residents in the form of vouchers. Securing a two-thirds majority, however, required compromises that we fear may drastically weaken the state’s ability to reach its greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets, and exacerbate inequities and environmental injustice. Most problematic is the ban on local Air Resources Boards limiting or regulating polluting industries such as oil refineries in their districts. The extension of cap-and-trade does little to nothing to change the status quo in which such environmental hazards are disproportionately located in low income communities and communities of color.

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