Climate Change

CA is not Serious about VMT Reduction

TRANSDEF’s organizational focus is the reduction of GHG emissions from transportation. Much of our work has involved the state’s policy-setting agency for climate change, the California Air Resources Board, or ARB. ARB has produced generally excellent climate change plans, called Scoping Plans. However, it has consistently been weak in the area of reducing GHG emissions from transportation, despite determining that nearly half of the state’s GHG emissions are generated by the transportation sector. Read More...

Briefing Continues in ARB case

TRANSDEF filed its Opening Brief in its challenge to ARB’s inclusion of HSR in its 2014 Scoping Plan. It’s been a long hard slog since we filed the case back in 2014, but things will move more quickly now. See this page for a copy of the brief, for ARB’s Opposition Brief, and for a description of the case’s complicated history over the past two years. Here’s the Brief’s Conclusion: Read More...

TRANSDEF Opposes CCTA Sales Tax Measure X

The TRANSDEF Board has voted to formally oppose Contra Costa Transportation Authority’s (CCTA’s) transportation sales tax measure. Our ballot arguments were selected to be the Oppose position in the Voter Guide. Our campaign website was posted today.

TRANSDEF Opposes VTA Sales Tax Measure B

The TRANSDEF Board has voted to formally oppose the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s (VTA’s) transportation sales tax measure. We have No Confidence in VTA. Check out the websites of our allies Sierra Club and BayRail Alliance!

Measure B would double VTA’s sales tax. This is intolerable, when the Measure fails in three distinct policy areas:
  • BART to San Jose and Santa Clara is a horribly wasteful and ineffective response to the commuting challenges of Santa Clara County residents.
  • The continued funding of highways is ultimately futile, as congestion will merely continue to get worse. See this study to learn how highway widening increases greenhouse gases over the long run.
  • While Silicon Valley desperately needs great transit, VTA continues to operate a hopelessly ineffective transit system. Its plans allocate little of the Measure A proceeds to an Santa Clara County transit network.
See the brilliant video, produced by the City of Cupertino, that shows how Silicon Valley could have great transit. Read More...

TRANSDEF Seeks RTP Alternatives

TRANSDEF today filed its scoping comments for the 2017 Regional Transportation Plan. The letter asks MTC to study a regional plan alternative in which there is no money for highway widenings or BART extensions. Instead, available funding would be spent on cost-effective transit projects and service. The intent is to maximize the reduction of GHGs by shifting travel away from solo driving. Read More...

ARB Not In Touch With Transporation

A collection of TRANSDEF’s comments to the Air Resources Board (ARB) was recently posted:

Testimony to ARB on Regional GHG Emissions Reduction Targets: “These targets will result in increased emissions in this sector, due to population growth. This is going in the wrong direction, and would send the wrong signal to the rest of the world about ARB's view of the need for urgent reductions in GHG emissions.”
ARB’s 2013 Scoping Plan Update: “Staff recognizes the need for "Fundamental transformation of transportation system needed to meet goals" but seems to have little grasp of the institutional barriers to that transformation.” Read More...

Marin Clings to Status Quo

As the Transportation Authority of Marin was determining what projects to submit to the 2017 Regional Transportation Plan, TRANSDEF’s President testified, “Highway performance is at near-crisis levels. Mobility is severely impaired. Yet you are being offered more of the same.” See that testimony and the rest of the Marin page. TAM didn’t discuss whether there was a problem, and adopted staff’s status quo proposal. Read More...

Caltrans Leaps into the Present

Caltrans has released its draft California Transportation Plan, or CTP 2040. The draft plan is a dramatic change from decades of status quo thinking. The plan is specifically designed to answer a question posed by the Legislature in 2009’s SB 391: What is needed for California to reduce emissions from motor vehicles to meet the AB 32 and Executive Order GHG emissions reduction targets.

TRANSDEF wrote a series of letters praising the Plan and suggesting improvements. They include
overview comments, detailed comments, and their attachments. Streetsblog wrote an excellent article covering the Plan. Read More...

Cap and Trade Guidelines for Transit

TRANSDEF filed comments on January 30, 2014 on the draft Guidelines for the State Transportation Agency’s distribution of cap and trade funds to transit and intercity rail. The program, called the Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program, will receive an ongoing 10% of cap and trade auction revenues. The final Guidelines were adopted today, and differed from the draft in the areas highlighted in yellow. None of the changes responded to our comments.

Our comments addressed the ongoing problem with large transportation projects: they promise too much and deliver too little, at a vastly higher price than initially promised. We wrote up a case study of MTC which we called
Politics Trumps Outcomes that identifies the politicization of project selection as the root reason why the Bay Area has lower transit ridership now than it did thirty years ago.

It's Time to Get Serious, ARB

TRANSDEF submitted comments to the Air Resources Board today on the need for an update to the regional GHG emissions reduction targets that were assigned by ARB back in 2010. These targets tell regional boards like MTC how much they must reduce their GHG emissions. Currently, GHG emissions continue to grow, as the regions continue to support solo driving. The letter states that the current targets aren’t working, and that tougher ones are needed to send a message to transportation agencies that they must play an active role in protecting the climate. Read More...

Contra Costa Stuck in the Past

Contra Costa County’s Transportation Authority has released a draft 2014 Countywide Comprehensive Transportation Plan. It is a classic suburban plan that ignores the fundamental challenges posed by climate change and congestion. TRANSDEF submitted comments that attempt to identify a different, more realistic pathway. We believe these comments are widely applicable to suburbia. See the Contra Costa page for more.

Opponents of BB Hold Press Conference

Opponents of Alameda County’s Measure BB transportation sales tax held a press conference today at the Asian Cultural Center in Oakland. It was covered by three TV crews and print press, including the Chinese language press.

TRANSDEF’s President made these remarks:
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Putting More Action Into Marin Climate Action Plan

TRANSDEF submitted a set of comments on the Draft Marin Climate Action Plan. They focused on reprioritizing Marin’s transportation funding to support alternatives to driving alone, rather than continuing to focus resources on supporting solo driving. Read More...

Golden Gate Bridge District Firmly Plants Itself in 20th Century

The Golden Gate Bridge, Highway and Transportation District’s Transportation Committee voted unanimously today to provide more auto parking for passengers of the Larkspur Ferry. They voted to give notice to the Marin Airporter to vacate the Larkspur Landing site it leases from the District. The District’s plan is to use the parking spaces currently used by Airporter customers for its ferry passengers.

TRANSDEF’s President was the only member of the public to speak on the item. His suggestion that the District show leadership on climate change by encouraging its passengers to arrive at the Ferry Terminal by ways other than solo driving was ignored by the Committee. The text of his comments follows. Read More...

MTC Opposes Regionalism, Yet Again

In 2013, MTC adopted a regional plan called Plan Bay Area, in response to state requirements under SB 375 to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs). Continuing its long history of putting politics before its mandate of improving the Bay Area, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission voted today to adopt an eviscerated set of Guidelines for Bay Area counties. Draft Guidelines had been developed that called for counties, when developing their Countywide Transportation Plans, to look to the goals of Plan Bay Area. Click on Read More for TRANSDEF’s comments.
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TRANSDEF Opposes Alameda County Transportation Tax

The Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, TRANSDEF, announced its opposition to the proposed 2014 Alameda County Transportation Sales Tax, which will be Measure BB on the ballot in November. The measure would lock in funding for the next thirty years, precisely the critical time when humanity needs to severely reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), if we are to preserve a climate hospitable to life as we know it.

Alameda County, like other transportation agencies, finds it more comfortable and less controversial to continue doing what it has always done: focus its efforts on a network of roads and highways that predominantly serve single-occupant vehicles. While the current proposal has funding for transit and bike facilities, the underlying focus hasn’t changed at all. The County’s Transportation Plan predicts a 46% increase in Vehicle Miles Travelled in 2035, with a slight increase if the tax measure passes. (A later ACTIA document adjusted that figure downwards to “only” a 26% increase, but that drop had little or nothing to do with the tax. Most of that adjustment had to do with correcting the assumptions for modeling.) Single-occupant driving is barely affected by the Transportation Plan and tax.

Until TRANSDEF sees a serious effort to make carpooling, transit and biking the predominant ways to get around, we will oppose such measures.
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Plan Bay Area Court Decision Released

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Grillo issued a ruling today in the Bay Area Citizens v. ABAG challenge to Plan Bay Area. He denied their petition that sought a ruling that the EIR was inadequate. See the decision and the briefing at the bottom of this page. This page also contains the settlement between the MTC and Sierra Club and Communities for a Better Environment.

Suit Challenges HSR Funding: Says It Worsens Climate Change

TRANSDEF, the Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, announced that it filed suit in Fresno County Superior Court today challenging the Governor's fallback funding scheme for High-Speed Rail (HSR). HSR was included in the list of measures to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions contained in the Update to the Scoping Plan recently adopted by the California Air Resources Board (ARB). The Scoping Plan is California's master strategy for responding to climate change.

TRANSDEF’s attorney, Stuart Flashman, commented: “As a former scientist, I was disappointed that ARB ignored the scientific evidence. The huge spike in cement production needed to build all the viaducts and trackways for the Governor’s high-speed rail line will result in greenhouse gas emissions far outstripping any potential benefit from the line. Including high-speed rail in the Scoping Plan runs directly counter to the legislature’s intent in AB 32 and violates the direct mandate of the law."
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Superb NYT Opinion Piece on Climate Change

The New York Times today published an amazingly comprehensive and compelling opinion piece by Hank Paulson, the former Treasury Secretary. Paulson speaks to his fellow Republicans, comparing the risks of ignoring climate change to the risks created in financial markets by ignoring the bubble there, which eventually resulted in near-catastrophe. Highly recommended!

ARB's Scoping Plan Update

The CA Air Resources Board (ARB) is updating the 2008 Scoping Plan, which laid out the State’s plan to reduce greenhouse gases (GHGs) which cause global climate change. TRANSDEF filed its comments, which stress the need for clarity as to the contribution of the economic recession and higher gasoline prices to the state’s reduced GHG emissions in the past 6 years. The comments call for ARB to remove HSR as a GHG emissions reduction measure, given that it is projected to increase GHGs for decades.

Multiple Suits Challenge Plan Bay Area

Multiple lawsuits were filed, challenging the FEIR for the Bay Area’s regional plan under CEQA. Interestingly, they attack the plan from different directions:

The Sierra Club/Communities for a Better Environment suit seeks a reduction in greenhouse gases and air pollution that affects communities of color in West Oakland. The “Bay Area Citizens” suit is a right-wing challenge to what it views as an assault on Americans’ God-given right to live in suburbs. The Building Industry Association suit makes interesting claims that have never been litigated: that the regional plan violates SB 375 by not providing for feasible levels of housing for the entire population of the Bay Area, including in-commuters from the Central Valley.

For the associated documents, see the bottom of
this page.

Is California Serious about Reducing GHGs?

The Air Resources Board is updating its Scoping Plan, California’s master strategy to reduce greenhouse gases under AB 32. TRANSDEF submitted a wide-ranging set of suggestions which emphasized the need for the Board to set stringent regional greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets, required under SB 375, that will achieve lower emissions from cars and light trucks. The targets set by the Board in 2010 were per capita numbers that, because they were lower than the rate of population growth, lead to increases in GHGs, contrary to the intent of SB 375.

An Excellent Overview of Regional Planning

Environmental advocate Peter Lydon wrote these comments on MTC’s Plan Bay Area, which capture the essence of regional planning:

Framework

Independently of anything the regional agencies do, the nine-county Bay Area is growing in population and getting wealthier, so, inevitably, it is changing. That means that the region is in transition. The aspect that concerns us is a needed transition from the present land use/mobility system to a new one.

The old, existing system is based on the single-family house, the personal automobile and the freeway. It handles growth mainly through outward spatial diffusion, or sprawl. It has grown up over decades, and has become our thoroughly familiar environment. We have all deeply adapted to it. It is individualistic, and not egalitarian. Growing up in times of economic success and prosperity, it offers what people believe is freedom. Therefore, on the basis of inertia alone, the traditional layout has support from the very large share of the population (and public and private administrative structures) that are comfortable in it and who want to preserve what is known and good.
Read More...

TRANSDEF Comments on Plan Bay Area

TRANSDEF filed comments on the Bay Area’s Draft Sustainable Communities Strategy today. By a fascinating coincidence, U.S. PIRG released its study today, called A New Direction, which is directly relevant to how to approach a regional transportation plan. This study points out the transportation planning consequences of the emerging pattern of millennials driving less. These documents are available here.

Hospital Required to Mitigate GHGs

TRANSDEF, along with fellow litigants the Sierra Club and the California Nurses Association, prevailed in a challenge to Sonoma County’s approval of a new Sutter Hospital on the fringe of Santa Rosa. They challenged the Environmental Impact Report as being inadequate in mitigating greenhouse gases, because of the site being totally auto-dependent. After several hearings and appearances before a judge, the County agreed to require Sutter Hospital to provide a shuttle to the hospital from the nearest SMART rail station. Sutter will also provide free bus and train passes to its employees, in addition to other incentives for vanpooling and carpooling.

These may possibly be the first mitigations in California imposed specifically for GHG impacts. Check out the
Press Democrat story.

RTP Submission by TAM

TRANSDEF’s Comments to the Transportation Authority of Marin
Regional Transportation Plan Discussion, 10-27-11

You have the authority to set a very new direction for transportation in this county. But you would never know it by reading the staff report. Judging by the report, this agenda item appears to be just another routine item.

The whole point of this agenda item last month had been to ask you what weight to give to each of the RTP candidate priority criteria. But that focus has been buried. It isn't at all clear what you are expected to do with this item. If you had been properly briefed by staff, you would recognize this item as the ultimate transportation policy setting discussion.

In my view, this is yet another in a long history of presentations shaped to maintain the status quo. TAM's predecessor agency had an ugly practice of keeping decision makers in the dark, so as to have staff positions rubber-stamped.

Read More...

Air Resources Board Doesn't Cave But Doesn't Lead Either

The Air Resources Board (ARB) adopted today a set of GHG emissions reduction targets for each of California’s regions. The building industry had conducted an intense campaign to get ARB to reduce the proposed targets to less-challenging levels. TRANSDEF’s President, David Schonbrunn, testified about how the proposed targets were inadequate to even keep current levels of GHGs from motor vehicles from growing. Here’s his testimony: Read More...

Clean Air Plan Adopted

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD) adopted its 2010 Clean Air Plan for the Bay Area. The plan is the first in the nation to offer a comprehensive approach to reducing all significant air pollutants, instead of treating them separately, as has been standard practice. TRANSDEF applauds the District for its excellent and innovative work.

Upon noticing that the Clean Air Plan would result in excessive particulate matter in the air, TRANSDEF’s President David Schonbrunn spoke to the Board of Directors and suggested that a mitigation be adopted to reduce the source of growing particulate pollution: motor vehicles.
Read More...

RTP Guidelines Revisions Adopted

The California Transportation Commission adopted revisions to the statewide Regional Transportation Plan Guidelines in response to all the changes resulting from SB 375. That law requires RTPs to contain a sustainable communities strategy, which attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet a target set by the State Air Resources Board. TRANSDEF participated actively in the revision process and is very pleased with the results.

Air District Revising CEQA Guidelines

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District will consider the adoption of new CEQA Thresholds of Significance at a hearing on January 6, 2010 at 9:45 AM. The documents to be considered for approval can be found on their website.

These revisions will result in environmental impact reports that evaluate greenhouse gas emissions. They will also result in obstacles to projects that would add pollution to over-burdened environmental justice communities. TRANSDEF is generally supportive of the leadership the District is offering in this area.

Finally, Someone's Writing about Highway Widening

MTC continues to make ludicrous claims that their proposed HOT lanes network will result in decreased GHG emissions, despite the new lanes’ encouragement of a significant increase in driving in the Bay Area. Given MTC’s intention to go forward with this massively counterproductive project, it is heartening that the Sightline Institute has produced an important study on the expected long-term increase in GHG emissions that will result from highway widening. Finally, someone in transportation is making sense! See our Smart Growth Resources page.

RTP Guidelines Revision Process

The California Transportation Commission is conducting a thorough process to revise the statewide Regional Transportation Plan Guidelines, in response to all the changes resulting from SB 375. That law requires RTPs to contain a sustainable communities strategy, which attempts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet a target set by the State Air Resources Board. Check out the CTC webpage.

Statewide CEQA Guidelines Revisions

In response to SB 97 and AB 32, the California Resources Agency has been revising the Guidelines under which the California Environmental Quality Act is implemented. These revisions call for the analysis of greenhouse gas emissions as part of standard environmental review under CEQA, including the analysis of the impacts of the emissions and their mitigation. Check out their website.

Jeff Tumlin Leads the Way!

Jeff Tumlin of Nelson-Nygaard gave a rousing presentation at the Joint Policy Committee. He made it clear that managing parking is a key strategy for reducing GHG emissions. Check out his report and Powerpoint.

Caltrans Introduces Smart Mobility

Caltrans offered a workshop last week in Sacramento on their new Smart Mobility Framework.  This is a program that Caltrans has developed in association with EPA.  It takes Smart Growth principles and integrates them into transportation in a manner that environmental activists will find both familiar and heartening.   Read More...

Comments Filed on Sonoma Transportation Plan

TRANSDEF filed comments on the Draft EIR for the Sonoma County Transportation Authority’s Comprehensive Transportation Plan. Find them next to the New! logo. Read More...

TRANSDEF on the radio

TRANSDEF's President David Schonbrunn appeared on Stanford University Radio's Raising Sand Radio program. The one-hour show provides a good overview for Bay Area and California transportation issues, from an activist's point of view.

The Regional Transportation Plan is nearing adoption

On March 13th, MTC will have a meeting of its Planning Committee to go over final details of its draft Regional Transportation Plan, for approval on March 25th. Read More...