After four years of planning, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) announced their new strategy for reducing greenhouse gas emissions last week.
The Sustainable Communities Strategy is the updated version of the regional transportation plan, according to Mark Butala, manager of comprehensive planning at SCAG. The regional transportation plan is updated every four years.
“The Sustainable Communities Strategy identifies how the integration of transportation and land use planning leads to the reduction of greenhouse gas emission,” Butala said.
This is the first time ever SCAG has been required to have a plan like this, according to Butala. He notes that each metropolitan planning organization has their own version of the strategy.
The prompting for the strategy came because of SB 375, which is California’s climate change legislation. According to Butala, SB 375 would require each regional transportation planning committee to identify how the strategy will lead to less greenhouse gas emissions.
Butala explained LA is well on its way to exceeding the numbers mentioned in the plan.
“In 2020, we plan to have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 8 percent,” he said. “By 2035, greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced by 13 percent.”
Butala said that the Sustainable Communities Strategy will create more investment in bicycle and pedestrian issues as well as in transit.
“Coupled with targeted land use changes, or investments, the Sustainable Communities Strategy will provide additional transportation and housing changes for current and future southern California residents,” Butala said.
SCAG worked with the environmental community, public health advocates, builders and developers, the business community and housing advocates when creating the Sustainable Communities Strategy.
“So far, we have had unprecedented support because of public participation,” Butala said. “Members of the public and groups have been working with us on development, making this a consensus-based plan.”
The three major goals of the Sustainable Communities Strategy are to improve mobility, have a healthy environment and create economic growth.
“The new plan relies on increased investment in public transit, bicycle and pedestrian improvements and more walkable, transit-accessible land use patterns to reduce pollution and improve mobility while conserving farmland and natural areas,” Butala said.
Butala added that the transportation investments included in the plan will not only improve how the region’s current and future population get around, but also put thousands of southern Californians back to work in much needed jobs. Those jobs would be in construction and other industries.
SCAG has partnered with member governments and stakeholder agencies that are responsible for land use changes.
“There are six individual county transportation commissions that are responsible for transportation investments,” he said. “In addition, there are 191 individual city governments that regulate land use changes.”
Despite public support, Butala is still anticipating potential problems.
“Certainly there are funding challenges to address in order to successfully assist local jurisdictions in implementing the Sustainable Communities Strategy to ensure that both future transportation investments and land use patterns support the vision for the entire region,” he said.
Being able to monitor and assess the performance of future projects is also going to be a potential challenge.
“SCAG, in partnership with its member jurisdictions, will need to determine a process by which projects are analyzed on how they contribute to the region’s ability to meet its regional goals,” Butala said.