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SoCal Now Ready to Fix Climate Change, Traffic, Sprawl

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Dec. 1, 2011 is the day the policy wonks have been waiting for: The Southern California Association of Governments will release the Draft 2012 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy at an event in Downtown. At 223 pages, the Draft RTP/SCS is not exactly beach reading, but it's recommended for policy wonks who have been curious about how the country's most famously sprawling region could use land use and transportation planning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which it has to do under California's Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act (aka SB 375). SB 375 mandates that greenhouse gas emissions from cars be reduced by eight percent per capita by 2020 and 13 percent per capita by 2035 (from 2005 levels). The RTP/SCS states that it is different than past Regional Transportation Plans produced by SCAG because of a greater focus on "sustainability" and "integrated planning."

The 2012 RTP/SCS covers the entire SCAG territory: Ventura County, Los Angeles County, San Bernardino County, Orange County, Riverside County, and Imperial County (two SCAG subregions, the Gateway Cities Council of Governments and the Orange County Council of Governments, did their own SCSes, which are incorporated into the SCAG plan).

The 2012 RTP/SCS proposes a transportation investment of more than $500 billion over the next 23 years, including $72.3 billion for highways, $49.7 billion for transit, $51.6 billion for passenger and high-speed rail, and $6 billion for "active transportation" (e.g., bikeways and sidewalks). In case you were wondering, the SCAG region has 21,630 miles of highways and arterials, which enables 446 million miles of driving each day (and the region wastes 3.3 million hours stuck in traffic each year).

The draft RTP/SCS also informs us that the SCAG region's economy has lost 800,000 jobs in the Great Recession and that the area will add four million people by 2035. The RTP/SCS targets most of that population growth for Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

Before you get too excited about that $72.3 billion in new highways, keep in mind that the financial plan for the RTP/SCS includes some revenue sources that not only don't exist, but that also tend to be political non-starters. For instance, it includes a mileage-based user fee to cover $110.3 billion and an e-commerce tax covering $3.1 billion.
· Draft RTP/SCS [SCAG]
· Transportation, Sustainability & Economic Recovery Summit [SCAG]