The Southern California Association of Governments (aka SCAG) held the last of its 18 community workshops yesterday in Santa Monica as a part of the process of updating its Regional Transportation Plan for 2012. Approving an RTP every four years is a prerequisite for regions to receive federal funding for transportation projects. The RTP in turn will guide how billions of infrastructure dollars are invested in the region. So it’s a big deal.
Regular readers of The Source probably recognize SCAG, but here’s a refresher for those unfamiliar with what it does: SCAG is a regional planning agency that helps guide the growth of a six-county area, which, combined, would be the fifth most populated state in the U.S. (see map below the jump).
Here’s how SCAG describes the goal and the process for the Regional Transportation Plan:
The Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) is a long-range transportation plan that is developed and updated by SCAG every four years. The RTP provides a vision for transportation investments throughout the region. Using growth forecasts and economic trends that project out over a 20-year period, the RTP considers the role of transportation in the broader context of economic, environmental, and quality-of-life goals for the future, identifying regional transportation strategies to address our mobility needs.
Typically, the RTP is basically an amalgamation of all the transportation plans of local jurisdictions. But this time around, there’s an added wrinkle.
Thanks to California law S.B. 375, SCAG and its fellow regional planning agencies across the state are also charged with producing a plan that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector 8% by 2020 and 13% by 2035.
The RTP will help SoCal hit those targets by encouraging future growth in walkable and transit-rich communities, thus providing alternatives to driving and reducing vehicle-miles traveled.
Circling back now, the main objective of yesterday’s workshop — and the 17 before it — was to garner community input on what priorities should be emphasized in order to hit those targets. Broadly speaking, the four basic tools are:
1) Development Location — dispersed growth or focused development?
2) Community/Neighborhood Design — auto-oriented or walkable?
3) Housing Options and Mix — single family subdivisions or multifamily focus?
4) Transportation Investments — roads/highways or transit and non-auto strategies?
SCAG staff members demonstrated in a presentation that the region could benefit by emphasizing future population growth around transit hubs in existing cities. The positive outcomes of that approach are not just limited to improved mobility.
SCAG’s models forecast that transit-oriented growth would help reduce air pollution, conserve water, use energy more efficiently and lessen the burdens on city infrastructure — all versus the status quo of development. And all of that, naturally, means more money in the pockets of citizens and municipalities.
Following the presentation, the 40-some community members in attendance broke off into focus groups to discuss their priorities for the Regional Transportation Plan. Each group was presented with six topics to discuss: mobility; environmental, health and community impacts; modes of travel; fiscal and economic considerations; safety; environmental justice; and an “other” category for participant-generated objectives.
After the group discussion, one member from each group then summarized his or her group’s priorities for all those in attendance. The overarching theme in Santa Monica seemed to be that the 2012 RTP should prioritize providing safe, reliable and fast transportation alternatives — i.e. transit, biking and walking — rather than investing in expanding highways and other automobile infrastructure.
To wrap up the meeting, community members were given an electronic device that allowed each to answer a series of questions to help SCAG planners hone in on the community’s preferences. (See pages 74-101 of this document [PDF] from the Los Angeles meeting from August 16 for some question examples).
Going forward, SCAG staff will conduct workshops with local elected officials and then release a draft of the Regional Transportation Plan in December. That will be followed by another round of public hearings in December and January. The final Regional Transportation Plan update is expected to be released in April 2012.
As the next round of public hearings comes up, we’ll be sure to let you know so that you can help shape the regions transportation goals. In the meantime, here’s a link for submitting comments to SCAG.
Last but not least, this snappy video ties it all together.