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.

Active Transportation Program: More Funds Available This Year; Providing Input on Next Year’s Cycle

On June 21, staff from the National Partnership attended a meeting of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Active Transportation Program to discuss the upcoming Cycle 4 grant process for the Active Transportation Program (ATP). We were encouraged to learn that the California Transportation Commission (CTC) and CalTrans are seriously considering a recommendation that we and other partners made to create separate grant categories for planning and non-infrastructure projects. CTC and CalTrans sought input from advocates and agencies about how those new categories of grants could be structured to invite more applicants. There was also much discussion about whether to have separate processes or applications for smaller, medium, and larger infrastructure projects, where the cut-offs would be for different size projects, and whether to have separate applications for each. This cycle will open in early 2018.

However, there is $200 million in new funding available for the ATP now due to the passage of SB1, and so there will be a 2017 ATP Augmentation cycle. In this augmentation cycle, the CTC will allow projects funded in 2017 to apply for consideration for an earlier funding window (meaning a project could be implemented sooner) and will also consider funding applications that competed in 2017 but were not selected for funding. The call for projects will be out within a few days, with a due date of August 1, 2017. If you applied in the 2017 cycle, scored well, but were not funded, please take a look and consider resubmitting your project for consideration.

Transportation, Goods Movement and Environmental Justice in the Inland Empire

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The National Partnership works on regional policy in several jurisdictions around the country, including in Southern California. Two of the counties we cover, Riverside and San Bernardino, known as the Inland Empire, have been subject of concern for many environmental and equity advocates. The California Environmental Protection Agency has identified both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties as having high amounts of pollution and high levels of low-income people. In addition, there are a lack of transit and active transportation options in the counties.  Compounding these issues, the region has seen many concerning land use planning decisions such as a dramatic increase of mega-warehouse logistic centers, contributing to its placement as one of the top 25 most polluted areas in the country. Close to 40 percent of the nation’s consumer goods travel through the Inland Empire and sit in warehouses before they are trucked out to other locations.  The booming goods movement industry means that Inland Empire residents are exposed to high levels of air pollution, traffic safety concerns from truck traffic, and poor land use planning.

On June 7th, the National Partnership participated in a meeting in the Inland Empire with the California Transportation Commission’s Executive Director Susan Bransen and Deputy Director of Transportation Finance Eric Thronson to discuss environmental justice and equity issues. The meeting was convened by Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, and several other area advocacy organizations joined as well, including Inland Empire Biking Alliance, Earth Justice, Policy Link as well as Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability.

At the June 7th meeting with CTC staff, much of the discussion was focused on the recent passage of California Senate Bill 1, which will pour significant transportation dollars, including planning, into communities throughout California. However, the bill had a controversial provision added at the last minute which exempts the trucking industry from complying with a requirement to retire or replace polluting diesel trucks. Advocates discussed how exactly the SB 1 provision hurts Inland Empire communities, where more warehouses are popping up all over the region, often near schools and affordable housing units, meaning truck pollution affects large numbers of people.

SB 1 does provide opportunities to expand alternative modes of transportation including active transportation and transit, an area in which the Inland Empire trails behind in investments. However, advocates discussed the need to strategize around environmental justice considerations and the need for these concerns to be heard from a community up approach. Advocates proposed that CTC create an environmental justice task force to represent community concerns. Another topic was Assembly Bill 179, which is currently being reviewed in the legislature. Introduced by Riverside’s District 60 Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes, AB 179 would establish an environmental justice seat within the California Transportation Commission Board. Environmental justice representation on state commission boards have been recently implemented by California Air Resources Board (CARB) and the California Coastal Commission (CCC).

In the end, the biggest recommendation from advocates included a call for inter-agency coordination, transparency and accountability to successfully accomplish California’s ambitious Climate Change and Greenhouse Gas Reduction goals–without creating an even greater disproportionate impact on low-income communities like Inland Empire.

The Southern California Team of the National Partnership is proud to support leaders of the equity and environmental justice movement across the state and especially within the Inland Empire. We believe that all children and families should live in places that are toxin-free and are healthy places to live, work, walk and bike. For more information on our environmental justice work and why we believe safe routes to school should uphold environmental justice principles to protect disadvantaged communities, please read our local case study.

 

 

More input sought on Transformative Climate Communities guidelines

The Strategic Growth Council (SGC) hosted two workshops (Los Angeles and Fresno) and an online webinar to facilitate feedback on the third revision of the Transformative Climate Communities (TCC) guidelines. The TCC program, funded with $140 million in cap and trade revenue from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction fund, will build capacity to large scale community planning and implementation projects in disadvantaged communities.

We are pleased about some notable changes to guidelines, including strengthening community engagement requirements and modifying the language around high speed rail connectivity requirements. Another major change to the guidelines calls for project areas to overlap with census tracts within the top 5% of the disadvantaged communities as defined by the CalEnviroScreen 3.0.  A full list of cities meeting that requirement were added for reference as an appendix in the guidelines.

The online webinar came with many program questions from participants as the third location has yet to be designated as anticipated and instead will be a competitive process. Many had questions about the scoring criteria, which has not been determined at this stage. We are also joining with partners to submit comments expressing concern about the reimbursement nature of the program, which is a barrier for low-income communities. Finalized guidelines will be announced later this summer.

 

Shaping new funding sources from SB 1

CalTrans held two workshops this week to solicit feedback on the guidelines for two new programs, Transportation Planning grants and Climate Change Adaptation Planning grants, which were created by Senate Bill 1.  At Monday’s meeting in Los Angeles, Caltrans officials met with advocates (including the National Partnership) and representatives from local jurisdictions, transit authorities and metropolitan planning organizations to discuss the guidelines and desired goals of the program.

Despite the eagerness of CalTrans officials to receive stakeholder input into the drafting of these guidelines, it should be noted that very little information about the program was made available to participants prior to the workshops, which made providing substantive feedback much harder. Going forward, the National Partnership and our allies will advocate for guidelines and a selection process that:

  • Are transparent and invite competition and bold proposals.
  • Prioritize benefits to disadvantaged communities, with ideally 50% of funds going to plans that focus on advancing social equity and creating benefits for disadvantaged communities.
  • Encourage or require the integration of land use and transportation planning, for example by extending eligibility to land use plans, general plans, regional greenprints, and planning to support anti-displacement efforts or affordable housing policies.
  • Promote integrated strategies that aim to achieve multi-benefits to communities (e.g. urban heat mitigation, improved stormwater management through forward-looking transportation infrastructure provision).
  • Maximize benefits and minimize harm to underserved communities, including improving resilience to climate change.
  • Reduce Vehicle Miles Traveled.

Workshops solicit input on targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions

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The California Air Resources Board (CARB) hosted three workshops on Senate Bill (SB) 375 in Bakersfield, Los Angeles and San Francisco to discuss the staff recommendations for regional greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.

Originally adopted in 2010, SB 375 set out to utilize the transportation planning process to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals as part of the state’s strategy on climate change. SB 375 legislation requires each Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) to create a Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) to achieve GHG reduction. This year, CARB initiated a process with the state’s MPOs to revisit and update their targets for reducing GHG.

CARB staff analyzed how to reach California’s climate and air quality goals, considering what each MPO could achieve with additional funding (such as the new funding approved through SB1).  The CARB staff report makes the case for stronger SB 375 targets and highlights how it would enable the state to make significant strides to achieve its goals of a 25 percent reduction in GHG by 2035. CARB’s Scoping Plan identifies a reduction in Vehicles Miles Travelled (VMT) as a critical strategy to reduce GHG. Furthermore, the staff report’s analysis of the Scoping Plan’s demonstrated public health co-benefits of community health and air quality as a result of SB 375 reduction targets of GHG and VMT. CARB staff ultimately proposed an increase for each MPO for their 2035 targets. For example, SCAG’s new targets would change from a reduction of 13% (though the region is on track for an 18% reduction) to a reduction of 21%, and MTC’s would change from a 15% reduction (though the region is on track for a 16% reduction) to a 19% reduction. CARB’s recommendations were met with mixed sentiments from MPOs and their jurisdictions, especially from the SCAG region, who were concerned that the targets were greater than they could meet.

At the Los Angeles workshop, opponents of higher targets expressed concern over current transportation spending formulas, which they say give little flexibility to support projects that reduce VMT. Some were also concerned that increased VMT from lower gas prices, known as the rebound effect hurts the MPO’s ability to maintain current GHG reduction. However, public health and active transportation advocates–including the National Partnership–hailed CARB’s proposed targets saying it is critical step for GHG reduction progress. Advocates also supported the targets from a social equity standpoint pointing out that the pollution burden weighs most heavily on the health of low-income and disadvantaged communities. Furthermore, additional resources from SB 1, the Volkswagen settlement and the Transformative Climate Communities Program (which total $53B over the next ten years) will give MPOs adequate funding to invest in climate strategies.

Comments are being accepted on proposed targets until July 28th. CARB will convene a roundtable to finalize staff recommendations in September and October.

 

 

 

 

Coming Soon: 2017 Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Competition

The Strategic Growth Council (SGC) has released the final version of the guidelines for the 2017 Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program (AHSC). This program provides grants for transit-oriented development that reduces greenhouse gas emissions.  It focuses on increasing the accessibility of housing, jobs, and key destinations through walking, biking and transit.  We are pleased with how the final guidelines incorporate many of the recommendations that we and partner organizations made that will maximize the impact of this program.  The competition is expected to open on October 2, 2017.  Watch our webinar from earlier this year about how to form partnerships between housing and transportation to prepare to apply.

Metro Approves Measure M Guidelines!

After months of hard work and input from community members, advocates, and the Metro Policy Advisory Council and staff, the Metro Board of Directors unanimously adopted the Measure M Master Guidelines last Thursday, June 16. Included in the approval was Motion 38.3 by Directors Garcia, Bonin, Solis and Hahn that altered the Measure M Highway Subfunds program to reflect goals of Metro’s Complete Streets policy—and in doing so prioritizing a more multimodal approach to reducing traffic and making streets safer for all road users. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership joined local partners in showing support for the motion by sending Metro Board of Directors a letter and providing testimony at Thursday’s meeting.

Adoption of the Guidelines is a significant milestone, but there’s still much work to be done. There remain questions about the applicability of Metro’s Complete Streets Policy across Measure M programs, in addition to concerns regarding project eligibility and performance metrics criteria.

Over the next two years Metro will develop administrative procedures for certain components of the Guidelines. For example, both procedures for determining Multi-Year Subregional Programs project readiness, along with Metro Active Transportation Program procedures and funding availability criteria will be established within one year. Check out the full administrative procedure development timeline here.

Next steps: The Metro Policy Advisory Council (PAC) will next meet on July 11 from 1:30-3:30 pm at SCAG headquarters to establish a work plan for the months to come as it considers the administrative procedures and the update to the Long Range Transportation Plan.

Measure M Guidelines Update: Read Our Comment Letter and Next Steps

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership submitted a comment letter to Metro regarding the draft Measure M Guidelines last week. You can read our full letter here. Be sure to also check out a letter submitted by our partners at Investing in Place that we signed on to.

Next steps: The Metro Policy Advisory Council (PAC) will continue to convene monthly, meeting next on June 6th at SCAG headquarters. At the June meeting Metro will present its initial revisions to the Guidelines for input. It is never too late to get involved! PAC meetings are open to the public and a great way to stay up to date on important discussions and provide crucial feedback. Find more information on the PAC here.

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