Transportation Impacts (SB 743)
Draft CEQA Guidelines and Technical Advisory
On January 20, 2016, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) released for public review a revised proposal for changes to the CEQA Guidelines that will change the way that transportation impacts are analyzed under CEQA. Please see below for the public comments that OPR received on the revised proposal.
Recommendations that remain similar to the August 2014 preliminary discussion draft:
- Vehicle miles traveled is the primary metric of transportation impact across the state
- Land use development near transit or in VMT-efficient areas should be presumed to cause a less than significant transportation impact
- Transit, active transportation, and rehabilitation projects that do not add motor vehicle capacity should also be presumed to cause a less than significant impact
- Implementation should be phased in over time
Recommendations that are new or different from the August 2014 preliminary discussion draft:
- Detailed recommendations on thresholds, safety and mitigation now appear in a draft Technical Advisory, rather than in the regulatory text
- New threshold recommendations are now more closely aligned with California’s long-term greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals
- Updated methodological recommendations for estimating vehicle miles traveled for commercial projects
- Clarification of which transportation projects may induce additional vehicle miles traveled, and those that would not likely do so
- Updated recommendations regarding rural development and small projects
- Recommended phase-in period of two years during which the new procedures would be optional, allowing those agencies that are ready for the change to do so immediately
Data availability and demonstration of methods:
- Data regarding vehicle miles traveled from the California Statewide Travel Demand Model is now available
- Case studies (residential-retail mixed use, office, and roadway expansion) have been included in the proposal to illustrate the analysis
What Does SB 743 Change?
Governor Brown signed Senate Bill (SB) 743 (Steinberg, 2013), which creates a process to change the way that transportation impacts are analyzed under CEQA. Specifically, SB 743 requires the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) to amend the CEQA Guidelines to provide an alternative to LOS for evaluating transportation impacts. Particularly within areas served by transit, those alternative criteria must “promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the development of multimodal transportation networks, and a diversity of land uses.” (New Public Resources Code Section 21099(b)(1).) Measurements of transportation impacts may include “vehicle miles traveled, vehicle miles traveled per capita, automobile trip generation rates, or automobile trips generated.” (Ibid.) Once the CEQA Guidelines are amended to include those alternative criteria, auto delay will no longer be considered a significant impact under CEQA. (Id. at subd. (b)(2).) Transportation impacts related to air quality, noise and safety must still be analyzed under CEQA where appropriate. (Id. at subd. (b)(3).) SB 743 also amended congestion management law to allow cities and counties to opt out of LOS standards within certain infill areas. (See Amended Government Code Sections 65088.1 and 65088.4.)
Aside from changes to transportation analysis, SB 743 also included several important changes to CEQA that apply to transit oriented developments, including aesthetics and parking.
OPR published a preliminary evaluation of possible metrics to replace “level of service” in transportation analyses in December 2013, and invited public comment on that evaluation. OPR reviewed all of the comments that it received on the preliminary evaluation to develop the preliminary discussion draft. In August 2014, OPR released a Preliminary Discussion Draft of Updates to the CEQA Guidelines Implementing SB 743 , and a Frequently Asked Questions document, accepted comments , and provided a summary of those comments . Those that would like to receive notice of the availability of the draft proposal, as well as other future Guidelines activities, are encouraged to sign up on the CEQA Guidelines listserv.