Southern California Regional Active Transportation Peer Exchange

PART I: SANDAG Relates to Active Transportation

Alan Thompson, Gayle Haberman, Jessica Lim, Tony Jusay, Alexis Lantz and Alex Oster dialgoue at Regional Active Transportation Peer Exchange, May 2011.

In May, 20 people representing over ten different organizations and agencies in Southern California working on regional walking and bicycling strategies, came together to share their best practices.

You can review the meeting’s agenda and notes, as well as the questions that guided the discussion on County Safe Routes to School Programs and SANDAG’s Regional Safe Routes to School white paper online.

The meeting had two primary questions for the afternoon’s discussion:

  1. What can a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) do to promote Active Transportation
  2. What can be done at the county level to promote Safe Routes to School?

California’s 2008 climate legislation SB 375, requires MPOs to develop strategies to reduce green house gas emissions by reducing car trips.  It has pushed the development of Regional Transportation Plans (RTP) to go further. San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is the first MPO in California to release an RTP under this new law and Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is scheduled to release their draft RTP plan in December 2011.

Making the comparison between SANDAG and SCAG, critical differences are size and role of the MPO. The SANDAG region has a planning area of one county, which is comprised of 18 cities and a little over 3 million people, unlike SCAG’s six-county region, comprised of 191 cities, representing 18 million people.

Promoting active transportation within an Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)
The meeting began with a presentation, and then discussion led by SANDAG’s Stephan Vance, Chris Kluth and Bridget Enderele about the efforts and strategies to catalyze active transportation in the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP). Specifically, they addressed the following topics:

  • How does SANDAG leverage funding to encourage active transportation in the cities they support?
  • How does SANDAG use modeling to promote active transportation, health and safety?
  • What kind of data does SANDAG collect and what type of staff resources are allocated?
  • Regarding active transportation, what lessons have been learned from the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and the Sustainable Community Strategy (SCS) process?

Increasing funding levels to support a walkable and bikeable region

Alexis Lantz from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and Stephan Vance from San Diego Association of Governments riding along a bike path in San Diego.

SANDAG’s recently released RTP, “Envision 2050” (scheduled for adoption in the Fall 2011), proposes budgeting $450 million during the next ten years for active transportation projects and nearly double that in the following decade. The proposal totals $2.5 billion, or 2.3 percent of the $110.7 billion RTP budget, to carry out the full plan supporting active transportation in San Diego.

Several years ago, SANDAG settled a lawsuit when they agreed to shift their regional plan of $510 million in transportation investments from five freeway segments in outlying undeveloped areas to four transportation improvements in developed areas in the City of San Diego and in the City of Chula Vista. This settlement is one of the factors that help to develop resources and support for active transportation and the Safe Routes to School program at SANDAG.

A county sales tax (TRANSNET) that first passed in 1987 now provides transportation funding to the area. One-third is allocated to each highway, transit, and local roads, as well as $1 million for bike transportation, which has since changed to a percentage.

Funding from the Transportation Development Act (TDA) also supports the area’s active transportation and supplies resources for SANDAG. The MPO employs its Pilot Smart Growth Incentive Program by using funding incentives to encourage coordinated regional planning to bring together bicycle and pedestrian investments, transit service, housing, and employment in smart growth development. This pilot project came out of the agency’s Regional Comprehensive Plan efforts, in 2004. The group discussed the key role land use plays in supporting walkable and bikeable communities, while SANDAG staff shared that through the use of data and regional strategy, investments were being directed toward ones that make the most sense in the long term viability and health of the region, as outlined in the region’s adopted growth policy.

SANDAG also values data collection, evaluation, and modeling. “We just programmed $700K over two years for monitoring,” reported Chris Kluth, a staffer at San Diego’s MPO, SANDAG, articulating one of the key roles the agency plays in supporting a region striving to become more walkable and bikeable.

Policies work, and are worth developing and adopting

Margaret Lin, Carolyn Mamaradlo, Shelly Saitowitz, Lindsey Cox, Gail Carlson, Tham Nguyen at Regional Active Transportation Peer Exchange, May 2011

One of the affirming moments from this discussion outlined that policies addressing and including active transportation work — policies are valuable to have established and adopted to help guide funding priorities and investments. SANDAG has laid the groundwork by developing a Regional Bike Plan and funding many cities to develop their own bike, pedestrian and safe routes to school plans. The MPO is using the growth policy, funding incentives, and complete streets polices to help the region meets its goals. It is critical for SANDAG and other MPOs to adopt meaningful policies (that address all travel modes), create plans and identify investments, establish baseline data, and support local jurisdictions with technical assistance.

The discussion presented one major takeaway:

Counties and Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) agencies can play five key roles in working toward a regional vision for active transportation:

  • Regional planning and evaluations
  • Funding
  • Technical training and support
  • Collaborations and partnerships
  • Outreach and education

It was exciting to see the exchange of information and relationship building regarding regional active transportation in Southern California. It is also clear that making this type of meeting a regular occurrence will be very useful to the Southern California region. Stay tuned for more lessons from this meeting in Regional Active Transportation Peer Exchange: PART II.

Peruse meeting documents and background:

Thanks to funding from Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW), which supports many of these efforts throughout San Diego and Los Angeles Counties, and for funding from Kaiser Permanente and for all the participants that came to this meeting to share best practices and build relationships in Southern California for a more walkable and bikeable region for all.

One Response to Southern California Regional Active Transportation Peer Exchange

  1. Pingback: Step-tember Meeting: Southern California Safe Routes to School Network « Safe Routes to School in California

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