September 16, 2014

TIPping the balance for Bay Area transportation

If the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) is updating both a long-range Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and a four-year spending plan (Transportation Improvement Plan, TIP), both plans should be pulling in the same direction. That’s why the Sierra Club made formal comments about the draft TIP.

The TIP is a listing of transportation capital projects and operating programs to be funded over the next four years in the Bay Area. The draft TIP would commit more than $11 billion. MTC’s original plan was to adopt the TIP in September 2012, half a year before adopting the RTP.

The RTP, which is revised every four years, also lists projects to be funded, but over 25 years with no specific timing, and with the possibility that any given project may be dropped from a future RTP. The next RTP, which also lists projects to be funded, will for the first time have to comply with California’s SB 375, the Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008. MTC is scheduled to adopt the RTP this spring.

The draft TIP, though, would have committed a lot of money to projects that don’t comply with SB 375’s mandate to cut down on vehicle miles traveled by cars and light trucks. It would have also given relatively little money to projects in priority development areas and to projects designed to cut down on driving, even though these are to be a highlight of the next RTP.

The good news is that after reviewing comment letters, MTC staff has decided to hold off on adopting the TIP until next March, still before the RTP but close enough to hopefully enable a better “alignment” between the two.

The Club is also concerned about environmental justice and Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. MTC has acknowledged limitations in its analysis of the benefits of its TIP expenditures for low-income and minority communities. It is required under federal law to make sure that these communities receive a due portion of benefits from the plans, but it appears unwilling at this point to revise its approach.

The Club will continue to push to make the TIP supportive of SB 375.

The Sierra Club’s comment letter on the TIP, and those submitted by other organizations and individuals, are here.

On the limitations of MTC’s environmental-justice analysis, see, “Comment and Response #6″.

Matt Williams, co-chair, Sierra Club Bay Chapter Transportation Committee

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