Reflections On Active Transportation in SCAG’s RTP

Gateway to the City of Dreams Mural (Union Station)

The passage of the 2012 SCAG RTP/SCS concluded one chapter in the marathon planning effort that included SCAG staff and the hundreds of advocates who worked tirelessly to have their voices heard (See our previous blog post for more details on: Lessons Learned from Southern California). It is therefore encouraging that most accounts of the plan consider it a solid step in the right direction.  However, some would ask the question, “Did the plan go far enough?” and “What’s next?”

One of the key differences found in this iteration of Southern California Association of Governments’ (SCAG’s) Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) is the inclusion of the Sustainable Communities Strategies (SCS). The SCS was mandated by SB 375 and it includes strategies that seek to reduce air pollution, increase the number of walkable and bikeable communities, mitigate urban sprawl, encourage transit oriented development, create streets for all modes and abilities, and improve the quality of life for Southern Californians.

Many recent media reports commend the 2012 RTP/SCS’s for its broad vision and  implementation of SB 375.  A few examples include:

  • According to one report the 2012 RTP/SCS will “remake of [Southern California's] transit identity” by directing transportation policy towards public and active transportation (Mercury News).
  • Riverside County Doctors applauded the 2012 RTP/SCS changes to the built environment in a Press Enterprise Op-Ed article, which builds public and active transportation networks with residential and commercial developments (PE Op-Ed). The doctors say shifting from a car centric approach to active and public transportation communities will significantly reduce chronic diseases, such as asthma, obesity, diabetes, heart disease and stroke, in the Inland Empire.
  • The San Bernardino Sun quotes real estate experts’ asking SCAG’s Regional Council members to revive the housing market by providing “more housing choices in neighborhoods that are closer to transit, and more walkable and bikeable (Sbsun).”

“Did the plan go far enough for active transportation?”

People interested in active transportation planning and policies must be mindful of SCAG’s current lack of data for walking and bicycling and how this affected funding allocations to active transportation. Throughout the RTP/SCS outreach process, it became apparent that the region has yet to undertake a real inventory of the needs of bicyclist and pedestrians. The media highlights increases in active transportation funding in the 2012 RTP/SCS to 1.3% ($6.7 billion) of the total RTP/SCS budget ($524 billion). Unfortunately, there has been little mention of the hard work done by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health which estimated that the true need is in the range of $40 billion or 5-8% of the entire RTP/SCS funding.

In addition, upon detailed inspection of the project lists in the RTP/SCS, the methodologies for calculating and accounting for the $6.7 billion in active transportation funds are vague.  Therefore it is difficult to understand which projects actually include active transportation elements and which do not.  The bottom line is that active transportation expertise must be developed within SCAG to effectively understand and plan for the active transportation needs of Southern California.

“What’s next?”

The 2012 RTP/SCS and motion passed by SCAG’s Regional Council is historical. This plan is rightfully characterized by the public as a catalyst or game changer in Southern California transportation policy.  However, active transportation has yet to receive  its fair share of infrastructure development in the SCAG region, seeing that it makes up 21% of all trips within SCAG.

Passing the 2012 RTP/SCS is a win for environmental, multimodal, clean air, health, and equity advocates but advocacy cannot stop here. Public testimony and discussion is still needed to ensure that the right projects are prioritized, adequately funded, and implemented to benefit all communities in Southern California.

Our team’s next step is to evaluate SCAG’s Overall Work Plan (OWP) for 2012. The regional active transportation policies outlined in a post-implementation motion must be adequately funded (Read SNRTSNP sign-on letter for SCAG’s OWP funding and adopted motion). We will continue to monitor the progress of the 2012 RTP/SCS implementation and encourage the development of more robust data for the next iteration of the RTP in 2016!

About Pauline Chow
I am the Southern California Regional Policy Manager at Safe Routes to School National Partnership. Living in the foothills of Pasadena, CA. Our mission is to advance safe walking and bicycling to and from schools, to build a diverse and inclusive movement of champions, to foster the creation of active and sustainable communities, and to improve the health and quality of life for all of Los Angeles County’s youth and families. Also, I think internets and people power go together and interested in using data science to explore social justice and civic engagement in the digital space.

One Response to Reflections On Active Transportation in SCAG’s RTP

  1. Pingback: SCAG Officially Approves Active Transportation Subcommittee Recommendations | Safe Routes to School in California

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