This is the final post in a series of blogs outlining six draft outcomes to guide our advocacy work in 2017. For more background on this series, read the introduction here. We invite your questions, comments, and critiques! Please email us your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Outcome: Metro builds an integrated, connected, and sustainable transportation system.
What success looks like:
- Metro supports a walkable and bikeable county by implementing the Active Transportation Strategic Plan, integrating complete streets into all projects, and investing in first/last mile connectivity as part of all transit capital projects.
- Metro integrates urban greening into all projects to capture and treat stormwater, increase tree canopy, and reduce ambient temperatures in urban areas.
- Metro measures and reports progress toward regional sustainability goals, including SCAG’s RTP/SCS greenhouse gas reduction targets, SCAQMD’s ozone and criteria pollutant targets, and LA Sustainable City pLAn’s mode shift targets.
The transportation sector is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in California and a primary contributor to smog in the L.A. basin. Transportation infrastructure and the movement of goods and people has a measurable impact on our environment and public health:
- All across Los Angeles County, thousands of miles of paved streets collect stormwater and flush it into storm drains and out to sea, carrying with it oils and sediments that pollute our creeks and beaches.
- Acres of black asphalt absorb solar radiation and increase ambient temperatures in neighborhoods, increasing air conditioning bills for families all over.
- Tens of thousands of trucks moving goods from the ports belch diesel exhaust into neighborhoods along the freeway system, giving children in nearby homes and schools asthma.
“Race Best Predicts Whether You Live Near Pollution
Environmental racism extends far beyond Flint” https://t.co/DRSbPuvA4z
— EYCEJ (@EYCEJ) February 22, 2016
All of these environmental impacts have traditionally been an afterthought in transportation planning, or have been considered just the cost of doing business by decision makers. Those costs end up on the balance sheets of other agencies charged with mitigating these impacts — whether it is the County hospital system for respiratory ailments, cities and the County for reducing water pollution, or the AQMD attempting to control ozone and particulate emissions.
Either way, taxpayers end up paying. Addressing all of these environmental issues upstream during transportation planning is more cost-effective and simply the right thing to do.
What’s Metro’s Role in Advancing Public Health and Sustainability?
Recently, Metro has increasingly embraced its role as an environmental leader by adopting many industry-leading sustainability policies, such as:
- Water Action Plan (June 2010)
- Green Construction Policy (July 2011)
- Renewable Energy Policy (September 2011)
- Energy Conservation & Management Plan (September 2011)
- Climate Action & Adaptation Plan (June 2012)
- Countywide Sustainability Planning Policy (December 2012)
- First Last Mile Strategic Plan (March 2014)
- Metro Complete Streets Policy (October 2014)
- Active Transportation Strategic Plan (May 2016)
— Investing in Place (@InvestinPlace) January 14, 2015
These policies show a clear evolution from Metro looking inward at its own resource use to recognizing its role as a major player in regional transportation and land use planning. Integrating these policies into the Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) is the logical next step. Metro should collaborate directly with other regional planning agencies to set shared sustainability goals for the transportation sector. Two suggestions:
- Metro should seek an arrangement with AQMD to jointly address mobile air pollution sources (a.k.a. cars and trucks), similar to the Joint Work Program with SCAG.
- Metro should rely on these agencies’ modeling expertise to evaluate different transportation investment scenarios to ensure that shared goals are achievable and consider any necessary changes to Metro’s plans to meet them.
The City of Los Angeles has also set ambitious goals in its Sustainable City pLAn, including reducing VMT per capita 5% by 2025 and doubling walk/bike/transit mode share to 50% by 2035. The pLAn has equally ambitious goals to promote livable neighborhoods through traffic safety and urban greening. Metro should adopt similar goals countywide and ensure the investments proposed in the LRTP will get us there through aggressive implementation of First/Last Mile, Complete Streets, and the Active Transportation Strategic Plan.
The transportation sector may be responsible for so many of Southern California’s environmental issues, but that also means it can be part of the solution. As the primary transportation planning agency for Los Angeles County, Metro has a critical role in ensuring that all of its functions from planning and construction to operations put the region on the path toward a healthy environment for the people who live here.