Last Updated 12/7/16
Governor Brown signed Senate Bill (SB) 743 (Steinberg, 2013), which creates a process to change the way that transportation impacts are analyzed under CEQA. Specifically, SB 743 requires the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) to amend the CEQA Guidelines to provide an alternative to LOS for evaluating transportation impacts. The law requires that those alternative criteria “promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the development of multimodal transportation networks, and a diversity of land uses.” (New Public Resources Code Section 21099(b)(1).), and directed OPR to study alternative metrics including but not limited to “vehicle miles traveled, vehicle miles traveled per capita, automobile trip generation rates, or automobile trips generated.” (Ibid.) Once the CEQA Guidelines are amended to include the chosen alternative criteria, auto delay will no longer be considered a significant impact under CEQA. (Id. at subd. (b)(2).) Transportation impacts related to air quality, noise and safety must still be analyzed under CEQA where appropriate. (Id. at subd. (b)(3).) SB 743 also amended congestion management law to allow cities and counties to opt out of LOS standards within certain infill areas. (See Amended Government Code Sections 65088.1 and 65088.4.)
Source: The Governor's Office of Planning and Research, Updating the Analysis of Transportation Impacts Under CEQA, State of California (https://www.opr.ca.gov/s_sb743.php).
Since the passage of SB 743, OPR released a Preliminary Evaluation of Alternative Methods of Transportation Analysis (December 2013), a Preliminary Discussion Draft of Updates to the CEQA Guidelines Implementing SB 743 (August 2014), and a Revised Proposal and Technical Advisory (January 2016). In these documents, OPR makes the following key recommendations:
Implementation of the updated guidelines for transportation analysis statewide; Use of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) per-capita, per-employee and per-service-population for analysis of transportation impacts of land use projects; Recommended thresholds of significance, based on citywide and regional averages for VMT; Transportation projects that add vehicle capacity are recommended to undergo VMT analysis, with emphasis on a “fair share” of allowable VMT increase statewide.
The next step will be the submittal of the final draft updates of the CEQA Guidelines to the Natural Resources Agency for rulemaking, which OPR has indicated will take place by the end of 2016. Following the rulemaking process (expected to take 6 months), the new guidelines will take effect with a 2-year “opt in” period, following which the new guidelines will be mandatory for all agencies statewide.
For more information:
California’s Governor’s Office of Planning and Research SB 743 website: https://www.opr.ca.gov/s_sb743.php
Caltrans SB 743 Implementation Page: www.dot.ca.gov/hq/tpp/sb743.html