Friday, January 22, 2016 The CSAC Bulletin
Housing, Land Use and Transportation
For more information, please contact Kiana Valentine at 916.650.8185, or Chris Lee at 916.650.8180.

Road Charge Pilot Project Recommendations Issued,
Volunteer Recruitment Underway

This week, the California Road Charge Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), which is studying road charging as a potential replacement for the gas tax, released its final recommendations for the design of a statewide pilot study of road charging. CSAC was well represented on the TAC by two county supervisors: Supervisor Lisa Bartlett from Orange County and Supervisor David Finigan from Del Norte County.

The recommendations reflect the input the TAC received from hundreds of stakeholders and individuals from across the state. The TAC and supporting staff from the California Transportation Commission underwent a rigorous, yearlong process to study all aspects of road charging. To gather input we held 12 public meetings in all major regions of the state, reached out to and briefed elected officials and media outlets in all of the state’s major markets.

Some of the TAC’s key recommendations for the pilot program include:

  • Offering drivers a choice in mileage recording methods,
  • Protecting drivers’ privacy and personal information through third-party validated protocols,
  • Determining the impacts of a road charge on drivers of various income levels,
  • Determining the impacts of a road charge on urban and rural drivers,
  • Seeking participation from at least 5,000 vehicles that represent the geographic, demographic and socioeconomic diversity of California, and
  • Costing drivers nothing to participate

The California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) will now execute the Road Charge Pilot according to these recommendations. The nine month pilot will begin this summer and CalSTA is beginning its work to recruit 5,000 volunteer drivers. Volunteer participation and feedback will be vital in fine-tuning the proposed program that could eventually tie highway funding with road usage rather than gas tax proceeds.

Volunteer drivers will be able to choose from one of several mileage reporting methods that California will be testing. Volunteering is free and no actual money will be exchanged. Participants will have the choice of submitting mock payments via mail or a secure website for testing purposes. Volunteers can enroll at www.CaliforniaRoadChargePilot.com.

OPR Issues Revised Proposal for Analyzing Transportation Impacts Under CEQA

This week the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) issued a revised proposal for amending the CEQA Guidelines as they relate to the analysis of transportation impacts pursuant to SB 743 (Steinberg, 2013). Among other goals, SB 743 sought to promote infill development, which has often been burdened with costly mitigation measures for transportation improvements under CEQA, even in settings where residents or workers at a development enjoy access to transit and proximity to other amenities that would tend to reduce their need to drive. The proposal would not change the ability of local jurisdictions to condition development proposals based on the circulation element of the General Plan, or other local policies related to congestion. Updates to such plans and ordinances, however, would have to be analyzed based on their impacts to vehicle miles travelled under the new proposed CEQA guidelines. The full proposal is available online here.

CSAC staff has only had time for a cursory review the proposal, but a few important points, including some that are consistent with earlier CSAC requests, already stand out:

  • Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) remains the proposed replacement metric for Level of Service. Fifteen percent below regional average VMT is recommended as the threshold of significance for projects with transportation impacts.
  • Consistent with CSAC’s requests, implementation will be optional for the first two years. OPR states that they will monitor performance during this time period and potentially suggest changes to the CEQA guidelines or technical guidance.
  • The guidance addresses comments regarding the availability of VMT data and models, pointing out that analysis under CEQA should be reviewed in the light of what is “reasonably feasible.” Moreover, OPR points to the availability of at least some data in areas outside of metropolitan areas from the Caltrans Statewide Travel Demand Model.
  • Caltrans has created a webpage that allows lead agencies to access data from the California Statewide Travel Demand Model for particular geographic areas. OPR also included example case studies of project analysts using the new methodology as an appendix to the revised proposal. 
OPR has requested comments on the proposal, which must go through a formal rulemaking process at the Natural Resources Agency before going into effect, by February 29. CSAC staff will review the proposal in greater depth, but would appreciate hearing any comments or concerns counties may have by Friday, February 19.