Los Angeles County Congestion Management Program
December 16, 2013 2 Comments
What is a Congestion Management Program (CMP)?
The Congestion Management Program (CMP) was enacted in 1990 as a companion to the increase in the State gas tax, enacted by voters through their approval of Proposition 111 and Proposition 108.
These requirements prioritize transportation funding decisions based on measurable traffic congestion relief, local land use decisions and their impacts on transportation and transportation control measures that meet air quality goals.
There are significant differences between both the state and the federal requirements, but at the base level, Metro’s CMP seeks to address vehicle congestion and requires new developments to mitigate their traffic impacts.
Metro Board Directors passed a motion in June 2013 to re-evaluate the role of the CMP in Los Angeles County. (see June 2013 – CMP Katz Motion here).
What else is changing? How does this impact Los Angeles County?
In addition to the Los Angeles County Metro motion in 2013 to hold hearings and conduct research on changes in requirements for the CMP, there are other state policies impacting this program. In 2008, California adopted AB 1358 – “The Complete Streets Act.” This law requires cities to include Complete Streets when they update their General Plans. The adoption of Complete Streets by cities can come into direct conflict with the LOS standards of the CMP when cities propose alternatives to street widening such as bike lanes or bus only lanes because these projects may reduce the LOS for single occupancy vehicles.
In 2013, California Adopted SB 743 which would a) “revise the definition of “infill opportunity zone,”” b) remove the requirement to use LOS within these zones, and 3) direct the Office of Planning and Research (OPR) to develop new metrics to determine the significant impacts of new developments on the transportation system. In short this means that in areas with high levels of transit service, Cities can opt out of using LOS for traffic impacts, and more importantly, OPR will be developing new metrics for determining how to deal with traffic impacts under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
And in 2012, SCAG adopted the Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy which seeks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the coordination of land use and transportation planning. This plan will require a new look at the CMP as a tool for coordinating infill development and the transportation mitigation fees that developers pay when building new projects.
What are the opportunities for the next CMP in Los Angeles County?
The Safe Routes to School National Partnership and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition recently submitted a Comment Letter to Metro.
SRTSNP and LACBC believe that use of LOS as the sole measurement for vehicle delay does not address the goals of reducing congestion in a way that supports Complete Streets, multimodal investments and the safety of all users and thus should be replaced by new metrics. SB 743 also supports developing a multimodal transportation system that “appropriately balance(s) the needs of congestion management with statewide goals related to infill development, promotion of public health through active transportation, and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.”
Accessibility, individual transportation costs, safety and reliability for all travel modes should be metrics that are included in any revision of the CMP. Additionally, Metro should consider setting mode share targets for the county, potentially by subregion, trip length or other appropriate factors. Metrics should be designed to measure factors that are known to affect mode choice, such as stress levels for walking and bicycling, the availability of direct routes for walking and biking, and relative travel times for various modes. These metrics may require additional data collection to adequately evaluate the transportation system.
Metro’s next CMP will need to balance the needs of all transportation users and provide opportunities to expand investments in transportation demand management measures such as walking and bicycling. At the same time it will need to support denser land uses if we are to meet the goals of SB 375 and AB 32.
Background: Why is the CMP important for Active Transportation?
One of the mandates for the CMP under state law is that congestion is measured by Level of Service (LOS) which is a measurement of how quickly motorized vehicles can move through a given segment of road. Historically this has led to the continual widening of roads to accommodate additional traffic and higher speeds.
Wider roads and higher speeds, however, aren’t good for all users of our streets such as bicyclists and pedestrians. Furthermore, this reliance on LOS as the core metric of the CMP is an unsustainable practice that does not address the key goals of the CMP requirements in a holistic way and ignores the requirement that safety be maintained for all users.
Background: What do the laws require?
While the federal guidelines stress multimodal planning, the state law is much more focused on improving LOS but it too includes transportation demand management (active transportation, transit, shuttles, etc.) as preferred congestion reduction outcomes. Both laws also have requirements for collecting data related to traffic congestion. The state law requires the use of LOS for this purpose while the federal law sates “The development of a congestion management process should result in multimodal system performance measures and strategies that can be reflected in the metropolitan transportation plan and the TIP.”
Below are a few examples of the emphasis placed on developing a multimodal transportation system and incorporating transportation demand measures.
- “The transportation planning process in a TMA shall address congestion management through a process that provides for safe and effective integrated management and operation of the multimodal transportation system, based on a cooperatively developed and implemented metropolitan-wide strategy, of new and existing transportation facilities eligible for funding under title 23 U.S.C. and title 49 U.S.C. Chapter 53 through the use of travel demand reduction and operational management strategies.”
- “In addition, consideration should be given to strategies that manage demand, reduce single occupant vehicle (SOV) travel, and improve transportation system management and operations.”
- “In a TMA designated as nonattainment area for ozone or carbon monoxide pursuant to the Clean Air Act, Federal funds may not be programmed for any project that will result in a significant increase in the carrying capacity for SOVs.”
- “A travel demand element that promotes alternative transportation methods, including, but not limited to, carpools, vanpools, transit, bicycles, and park-and-ride lots; improvements in the balance between jobs and housing; and other strategies, including, but not limited to, flexible work hours, telecommuting, and parking management programs. The agency shall consider parking cash-out programs during the development and update of the travel demand element.”