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.





City of Los Angeles releases Vision Zero Action Plan and Safety Study.

On January 26, 2017, Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Los Angeles Department of Transportation announced the release of the city’s first Vision Zero Action Plan and Safety Study. The plan outlines goals to reduce fatalities by 20 percent by the end of 2017 leading to the ultimate goal of zero traffic deaths by 2025 (hence the name of the campaign ‘Vision Zero’). In order to accomplish the goal of fatality reduction, the Action Plan identifies the areas with the highest fatal and severe injury collisions, with an emphasis on vulnerable populations such as areas with high concentrations of children and seniors.

Since the Mayor’s Executive Directive for Vision Zero was announced in August 2015, LADOT has completed 31 safety-focused traffic signal projects along the 40 priority corridors. These important spot improvements are part of the department’s ongoing commitment to traffic safety. While LADOT will continue to identify solutions at individual intersections throughout the City of Los Angeles, the Vision Zero Action Plan has identified 40 priority corridors along the High-Injury Network that have a higher concentration of deaths and serious injuries, and demand corridor-wide approaches to achieve Vision Zero goals.

The Partnership has been involved in the LA Vision Zero Alliance, which a collaborative of community based organizations who have worked with LADOT on certain developments of the plan and its outreach. The LA Vision Zero Alliance will continue to work with LADOT on the implementation of the Action Plan. You can access more details of the LA Vision Zero Alliance here.

Read the Action Plan and more details here. You can also view an Online interactive version of the plan here.


CalEnviroScreen 3.0 finalized with important updates

The California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) and OEHHA (Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA)’s statewide screening tool, CalEnviroScreen has been updated to a 3.0 version. CalEPA and OEHHA conducted several workshops and webinars over the course of Summer and Fall 2016 throughout the state in order gather input from stakeholders. A press release was published this month to announce the draft had been finalized. Among major changes to the update, most notable include the addition of two new indicators which measure housing costs and cardiovascular health. The housing indicator, as a social economic indicator, measures census tract’s low-income households that pay over half of their income for housing. The cardiovascular health indicator collects data on emergency room department visits for heart related attacks.  The 3.0 version is also set to have refined data including new information on census tracts. The newest version of CalEnviroScreen will also examine pollution data along the Unites States and Mexico border, in order to better understand how border communities are affected from outside pollutants.  Stakeholder feedback also resulted in the addition of an age indicator as opposed to the entire removal of children and elders as an age indicator. During the public comment period, the Partnership submitted a comment letter to CalEPA and OEHHA supporting an update, opposing an age indicator removal as well as asking the agencies to provide additional resources for local jurisdictions that help identity the best ways utilize CalEnviroScreen for their communities. CalEnviroScreen is an important tool that helps identify environmental justice communities and helps advocate access data that is critical to understanding hazards within the built environment.  CalEnviroScreen is also a tool that is used to qualify for disadvantage community designation within statewide grant programs like the Active Transportation Program. To read more about the finalized draft, please visit the OEHHA website for press release information here.

Advocates call for stricter change on Department of Pesticide Regulation’s policy for schools

Safe Routes to School National Partnership and Leadership Counsel for Justice and Accountability (Leadership Counsel) commented on the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR)’s policy for pesticide application near schools. DPR’s new draft regulation would require that agriculture growers notify schools and day care centers when companies plan to spray pesticides in the area and prohibit the application during schools site sessions. The policy also would create 1/4 mile protection zone during school hours and also includes provisions on application methods.

For many communities who live near agriculture hubs, pesticide usage is a major public health concern. Earlier this year, UCLA conducted a study of the effects of pesticide and concluded that exposure can lead to serious health issues including forms of cancer. Adequate protection, or “buffer” zones is critical to ensure the safety of the communities who live near grower facilities.

For example, the agriculture industry plays a major role as an economic stimulator for Coachella Valley. Eastern Coachella Valley residents face many health disparities as a result of living in proximity to agriculture fields. In February 2016, the agriculture commissioner fined a local grower $5,000 as a result of an investigation into cases of exposure from students of Coachella Valley High School. Students and staff reported many health problems and the school was even closed during that period of time. Furthermore, CalEnviroScreen data shows the census tract of Coachella Valley high school has a troubling pesticide score of 96. Stricter policy restrictions from the statewide level are necessary to address local concerns, such as in the case of Coachella Valley High School.

Pesticide residual drift is both an environmental justice and active transportation hazard. Many of Coachella Valley students depend on active transportation methods such as walking and biking in order to get school. DPR’s current proposal calls for 1/4 buffer zone for application with restrictions enforced during schools hours. The proposed regulation does not adequately or effectively address distances for students who walk and bike to school nor does it address community/school events after hours. Instead, the Partnership and Leadership Counsel call for a 1-mile buffer zone that is enforced 24 hours a day. Californians for Pesticide Reform also submitted a coalition letter with similar policy recommendations. For more information on our policy recommendations, please access our letter here.

Colorlines also released commentary on the issue, which can be found here. You can read more about the DPR’s policy on their website located here including a highlighted fact sheet. DPR conducted three public workshops in Oxnard, Tulare and Salinas during the month of December. Comments for the draft regulations ended Friday, December 9th, 2016.

LA City Council approve School Safety “Slow Zones” project for 11 schools

Earlier this month, the Los Angeles City Council voted to approve and adopt the first phase of the school safety zone speed limit (also known as Slow Zones) project as a part of the Los Angeles City Safe Routes (SRTS) Strategic Plan.  The project implementation will include 11 schools with 23 street segments. The project’s aim is to reduce the limit to 15 miles per hour when students are present on segments within 500 feet of schools. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation will be following up and outreaching to schools in the coming weeks. You can get more information on schools segments and more here.

A message to our San Bernardino Active Transportation members and partners

San Bernardino Active Transportation Network Members,

On behalf of the network core team, We send our deepest sympathy to all those affected by yesterday’s tragedy. Our heart goes out to their families and all our Inland Empire community.
We want to acknowledge all of your work in keeping our communities safe and healthy. Thank you for all you do on a daily basis. We are a strong community. As advocates, public servants and government representatives, let’s continue to work together to serve our community especially during this time of healing. We will send a note about the details of our next meeting very soon.
All the best in this time of healing,
San Bernardino Active Transportation Network organizers
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