Shifting from LOS to VMT as the Measure of Transportation Impacts: Evaluating Prospects for Implementing Senate Bill 743
PI: Daniel Chatman, UC Berkeley
Abstract: California’s Senate Bill (SB) 743, enacted in 2013, marks a historic policy shift in evaluation and mitigation of traffic impacts of development projects. To help achieve state climate policy and sustainability goals, SB 743 eliminates traffic delay as an environmental impact under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), requiring instead assessment of vehicle miles traveled (VMT). Recently proposed state implementation guidelines have sparked debate, raising far-reaching questions about development planning. Using a case study approach, our research will consist of two parts. The first will evaluate tools-in-use for estimating VMT impacts of development projects, considering outputs in connection to the best available research on the subject, and also against the proposed state rules for determining significant effects that require mitigation. We will evaluate how well the tools and proposed guidelines distinguish high- and low-performing projects, and how well they serve to streamline project-level analysis from plan-level analysis – a goal of SB 743. The second component will consist of interviews with local CEQA practitioners and assessment of pertinent documents on CEQA review, to identify challenges for implementing SB 743 at the local level. The research will identify effective VMT assessment techniques that state policymakers may want to recommend to local agencies.