California altered the lens for assessing transportation impacts on the environment for new developments subject to CEQA review with the passing of Senate Bill 743 (SB 743). As of July 1, 2020, agencies that are analyzing the transportation impacts of new projects must now look at a metric known as vehicle miles traveled (VMT).
Senate Bill 743 represents a significant shift away from the familiar Level of Service (LOS) analysis where the impact of traffic congestion and the amount of time spent stopped or slowed in traffic is used to measure environmental impacts. Even before July 1, 2020, because of the shift required by SB 743, LOS was no longer the focus in transportation impact analyses—instead, VMT, which is the amount and distance of driving, is utilized to determine potential transportation impacts. The purpose is to optimize the measuring of the actual transportation-related environmental impacts of a given project. Passed in 2013, SB 743 was implemented in 2018 through the modification of regulations under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Transportation impacts prior to SB 743 have traditionally been assessed in terms of Level of Service (LOS), a measure of vehicle delays in seconds at an intersection.
Cities and counties are now required to establish thresholds of significance measured by VMT. According to the Legislature, this change is better aligned with California’s goals in reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and traffic-related air pollution, promoting the development of a multimodal transportation system, and providing clean, efficient access to destinations. SB 743 also amended the Government Code’s requirements pertaining to congestion management to allow cities and counties to opt out of LOS standards within certain infill areas. (Reference Government Code Sections 65088.1 and 65088.4).
To help with transition to these new methodologies required under SB 743, we have aggregated available resources for California lead agencies that may serve as valuable guidance. Developing an implementation framework will require collaboration and project management from practitioners and policymakers on the behalf of regional and local governments.
Key Documents & Links from the Office of Planning and Research:
- SB 743 Frequently Asked Questions
- Technical Advisory on Evaluating Transportation Impacts in CEQA (PDF)
- CARB 2017 Scoping Plan- VMT Reductions & Relationship to State Climate Goals
Key CEQA Documents:
Implementation Resources and Information from Caltrans:
- Implementing SB 743 Webinar
- Office Hours
- Updating the Metric of Transportation Impact Presentations
- SB 743 Town Hall Recording
The shift in analysis required by these recent changes can be challenging, and it is important to have access to reliable resources for guidance to better outline critical steps in implementing the new provisions. We hope this collection of resources will help break down the complexity SB 743 may present and help build the path to effective planning and strategizing for future developments that require VMT analysis.
FirstCarbon Solutions (FCS), an ADEC Organization, offers a full complement of efficient, practical, and cost-effective services to assess and manage the environmental impact of new and modified projects. FCS has over 37 years of experience across more than 8,000 projects subject to CEQA requirements. Contact us for a free consultation to find out how we can help.