SB-743, CEQA, and moving away from LOS

Saturday in LA

Yesterday the Governor's Office of Planning and Research (OPR) released Updating Transportation Impacts Analysis in the CEQA Guidelines. It's the draft discussion SB-743 Environmental Quality: transit oriented infill projects, judicial review streamlining for environmental leadership development projects, and entertainment and sports center in the City of Sacramento. As the bill's name hints, the impetus for the legislation is the contentious proposed new arena for the Kings in downtown Sacramento though the effects will be felt statewide. 

Many of the concerns and questions raised by SB-743 lie in the proposed changes to litigation windows to CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act). The proposed reforms could make it easier for projects to obtain exemptions from the full CEQA project, potentially making the development of previously contested projects easier. 

From a transportation standpoint, the biggest change to CEQA is the use of level of service (LOS) in evaluating the impact of projects. Instead of relying solely on LOS to determine the significance of transportation impacts, OPR proposes:

In developing the criteria, the office shall recommend potential metrics to measure transportation impacts that may include, but are not limited to, vehicle miles traveled, vehicle miles traveled per capita, automobile trip generation rates, or automobile trips generated.

Engineering groups like Western ITE suggested using vehicle miles traveled (VMT) instead of LOS to measure impact as it focuses only on automobile congestion at the expense of other modes. So now that it looks like we're moving away from LOS, what comes next? Researchers have already begun looking at how this will affect models and traffic studies. Fehr & Peers have developed an concise website describing the impacts of SB-743