SCAG Update: 2016 Regional Transportation Plan & Sustainable Communities Strategy Underway!

scag50logoIt seems like just yesterday that regions across California were creating their first Sustainable Communities Strategies (2012 to be exact), but here we are several years later, and many are preparing to update them. The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is well underway with the 2016 update to their Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and SCS, and this post summarizes the latest developments.

About the Sustainable Communities Strategy

The Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008 (Senate Bill 375 for short), requires MPOs to prepare a Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) as part of their long-range Regional Transportation Plans (RTP). The goal of the SCS is to integrate land use, housing and transportation strategies into one overall plan in order to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to target levels set by the California Air Resources Board (ARB). For the SCAG region, these targets are a 8% reduction in GHG emissions by 2020, and a 13% reduction by 2035. These targets will stay the same with the 2016 update. More information about the purpose of the SCS can be found here. SCAG adopted its first SCS in 2012 and it can be found here. SCAG updates its RTP every four years, so the SCS is being updated as part of this process over the next year.

Draft Scenario Planning MatrixR2-page-001Scenario Planning

The 2016 RTP/SCS is currently in the scenario planning phase. Staff released the draft scenario planning matrix at the February Technical Working Group meeting. The matrix contains four scenarios: (1) a no build/baseline; (2) the 2012 plan with an updated growth forecast; (3) a Policy A that updates the 2012 plan with greater consideration for active transportation, public health, environmental justice (EJ), technology and millennials; and (4) a Policy B that “pushes the envelope” with a comprehensive “short trip” strategy that maximizes GHG, air quality, livability, public health, EJ and affordability benefits. Policy B also assumes profound technology effects. The scenarios include eight (8) data inputs, including active transportation. There are also eight (8) policy drivers/performance metrics, including equity, public health and environmental justice. A larger version of the matrix is available here. The RTP/SCS is fiscally constrained, meaning all projects must be fully funded in order to be included. Thus, the second or third scenarios are the most likely to be the final scenario included in the RTP/SCS, even if the fourth (Policy B) would go the furthest in achieving the target GHG reductions.

Screenshot 2015-03-27 13.38.51Environmental Justice Analysis

SCAG staff has also started the environmental justice analysis component of the 2016 RTP/SCS. At a presentation at February’s Technical Working Group, staff presented the framework for the analysis and draft maps with some of the results. The analysis will include conventional inputs of air pollution, low income neighborhoods and proximity to highways, as well as emerging issues of gentrification, displacement and tax burdens. The full presentation is available here.

As we previously reported, SCAG is holding two workshops in April to gather stakeholder feedback on this process. We encourage you to attend these meetings to learn more about environmental justice and voice any concerns you have about the analysis. The first one is in Riverside on April 15 and the second one is in downtown Los Angeles at SCAG’s main offices on April 23 (see our previous blog post for details).

Screenshot 2015-03-27 14.13.40Performance Measures

The draft list of performance measures was released at March’s Technical Working Group meeting. SCAG has included performance measures in its RTP since 1998, long before the SCS was added. The performance measures are meant to quantitatively measure the extent to which the RTP/SCS will accomplish its goals, and are used both during the scenario planning process to evaluate the scenarios and plan performance, and after the plan is adopted to track progress toward meeting its goals. There are nine categories of performance measures in the 2016 RTP/SCS, up from seven in 2012. The categories are (1) location efficiency, (2) mobility and accessibility, (3) health and safety, (4) environmental quality, (5) economic well-being, (6) investment effectiveness, (7) system sustainability, (8) resource efficiency (new in 2016) and (9) environmental justice. The full list on the performance measures is available here (see pages 17-22). These performance measures are still in draft form and will be modified over the coming months. SCAG is expected to host a joint Policy Committee meeting in June to discuss them in more detail.

We are encouraged to see several performance measures related to active transportation, safety, health and equity included in these performance measures. The inclusion of environmental justice as a separate category is also a significant addition which will help get a better picture of the challenges facing disadvantaged communities across the SCAG region. Though these measures may change in the final version, they are comprehensive of the many issues facing Southern California in the years ahead.

Active Transportation and Public Health

Active transportation and public health have been strongly interwoven into the 2016 RTP/SCS update so far. As mentioned above, active transportation is one of the 8 data inputs into the scenario plan, and public health is one of the 8 policy drivers/performance metrics. They are also both integrated into the performance measures. On April 14, SCAG will hold the next working group meetings for both issues, and more details are expected to be revealed. See our previous blog post for information on the Active Transportation and Public Health Working Group meetings, including registration information. SCAG has also prepared a Public Health Action Plan that outlines how public health will be included in the 2016 RTP/SCS and other regional planning activities conducted by SCAG.

Public Outreach

SCAG staff plan to hold workshops across the 6-county region this spring and early summer to reveal the scenarios and other components of the RTP/SCS, and gather feedback. No dates have been announced yet, but we will post them on this website soon after the dates are confirmed. We encourage you to attend and voice your support for active transportation, Safe Routes to School and other related issues!

Next Steps

After the public workshops in spring and early summer, SCAG staff will go back and prepare the draft RTP/SCS, including the finance plan and strategies for each transportation mode (including an Active Transportation Strategy). The draft is expected to be rolled out in late summer or early fall (likely September). Accompanying the draft will be the Program Environmental Impact Report (PEIR), which is expected to be released in October. There will be a public comment period directly following the release of both documents. The final 2016 RTP/SCS will be approved at the SCAG General Assembly meeting in May 2016.

The Safe Routes to School National Partnership and our Southern California partners will be closely monitoring the 2016 RTP/SCS update in the months ahead, and preparing verbal and written feedback at various points in the process. If you have any thoughts or suggestions as the process moves forward, let us know! We will keep our website updated with the latest information so you know what’s going on!

2 Responses to SCAG Update: 2016 Regional Transportation Plan & Sustainable Communities Strategy Underway!

  1. One of the best write-ups on the RTP/SCS process I’ve read.

    But, a few questions are in order:

    The ultimate objective of all of the SCSs collectively is to reduce California’s GHGs to 1990 levels (427 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent or 427 MMTCO2e) by year 2020. As of 2012, MMTCO2e in California was 458 MMTCO2e or thereabouts. What I have noticed is that some MPO’s SCSs are more ambitious in terms of their target reductions compared to others. Say, for example, 9 out of 18 MPOs attain their target reductions and 9 fall short and California’s overall target for 2020 isn’t reached. Will regions not meeting specified targets be penalized for not doing so, and, if so, how?

    Secondly, if California Air Resources Board officials approve the various regions’ SCSs, and even after all actions for reducing GHGs to target amounts are implemented and the reductions still are not met, what happens then?

    Would have been better to assign standard GHG reduction targets for all of the regions, say, 7 percent reduction by 2020 and 14 percent by 2035, then letting each of the MPOs choose targets independent of each other?

    How has the drought influenced or not influenced SCSs?

    Should certain regions fail to meet 2020 targets, I sincerely hope that any region or regions failing will look at the regions that attain success to learn from their successes and replicate such actions and strategies in similar fashion in order that all MPOs may meet specified 2050 targets.

  2. Paragraph 5 above should instead read: Would it have been better to assign standard GHG reduction targets for all of the regions, say, 7 percent reduction by 2020 and 14 percent by 2035, rather than letting each of the MPOs choose targets independent of each other?

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