With the new SB 743 requirement to use VMT as the metric for evaluating transportation impacts under CEQA, Caltrans has reached out for comments on its draft documents. Those documents imply that Caltrans pretty much expects life after SB 743 to be similar to life before it. Caltrans expects to keep on widening highways, which will increase VMT due, in part, to the phenomenon of induced demand.
TRANSDEF’s comments stress a broader perspective: the entire mission of Caltrans must change in response to the recognition that the State’s largest obstacle to achieving its climate change targets is the ever-increasing amount of driving. Motor vehicles and the fuels that propel them make up half the state’s GHG emissions. While the State is succeeding in reducing emissions in most other sectors, this sector of the State’s GHG inventory keeps increasing, because of increasing VMT.
Caltrans has not yet taken responsibility for its outsized role in increasing the State’s GHG emissions. TRANSDEF’s comments are intended to make that responsibility explicit.