Measuring Transportation’s Impacts Under California’s SB743 Law

MTI research examines how cities are adapting to new requirements to assess vehicle-miles-traveled for new projects
February 13, 2019
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San José, CA

 

With California’s ambitious environmental goals well in mind, Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 743 into law in September 2018. In order to remain in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), transportation environmental impacts will go from being evaluated using a level of service-based measurement (LOS) to one that measures vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT). The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI)  report “Measuring Incremental SB 743 Progress: Accounting for Project Contributions Towards Reducing VMT Under California’s Senate Bill 743,” examines the experiences of the City of San José to identify the challenges faced by California planners trying to meet the legal requirements of SB743 and the practical needs of their communities.

Report Author, Dr. Christopher Ferrell, identified San José as one of the few cities to already have travel models and techniques on hand to calculate VMT prior to SB 743. While the study successfully identified an increase in transit ridership and a decrease in VMT, the decrease was small, making it difficult to justify the VMT and GHG reduction benefits.

Dr. Ferrell indicated that while the findings were limited, “we must start somewhere. If we agree that auto-oriented projects (e.g., adding lanes, widening intersections, and increasing design speeds) lead to increased VMT, which is a central premise of SB 743, then we must also conclude that projects adding multimodal capacity and transit-oriented urban form should lead to decreased VMT.”

The report identifies the contributing factors that affect the outcome of these early VMT measures:

  • Density
  • Diversity
  • Design
  • Destination accessibility
  • Distance to transit
  • Demand management
  • Demographics

However, Ferrell notes that there are other factors related to a city’s development that must be considered in future VMT measures, including accounting for scale and context (i.e. the development in a particular neighborhood). It is these variations from city to city and neighborhood to neighborhood that make efforts to develop reliable SB 743 VMT calculation methods a challenge. 

ABOUT THE MINETA TRANSPORTATION INSTITUTE

At the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) at San Jose State University (SJSU) our mission is to increase mobility for all by improving the safety, efficiency, accessibility, and convenience of our nation's’ transportation system through research, education, workforce development and technology transfer. We help create a connected world. MTI was founded in 1991 and is funded through the US Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants. MTI is affiliated with SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Ferrell is an MTI Research Associate and co-founder of CFA Consultants, a transportation planning and research firm.

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Contact:

Irma Garcia, MTI Communications & Workforce Development Coordinator

408.924.7560

irma.garcia@sjsu.edu