Two recent studies suggest that California’s change in assessing the impact of development—from level of service (LOS) to vehicle miles traveled (VMT)—can reduce costs for developers and streamline the review of projects. Under the new guidelines, both studies to determine transportation impacts and any mitigation measures after review are less costly than the previous requirements. This has been confirmed not just by academic studies, but also by the City of Pasadena in a paper by recently-retired Director of Transportation, Fred Dock.
Seattle is the latest city to move away from traditional definitions of motor vehicle LOS and toward a more multimodal approach in assessing the impacts of new development. On January 14, the Seattle Council is set to vote on new regulations for developments to support changes in adopted transportation level of service. The new regulations will change which development projects require transportation mitigation and increase the minimum size of developments that are subject to a transportation impact analysis.
This report proposes a new approach to assessing and responding to land use-driven transportation impacts, called “modern mitigation.” Instead of relying on auto capacity improvements as a first resort, this approach builds on practice around transportation demand management (TDM) to make traffic reduction the priority. Based on programs dating to the 1990s in several cities, a modern mitigation program requires certain new land uses to achieve TDM credits.
The California legislature last week passed a bill that will remove highway level-of-service and parking from traffic mitigation analyses. The bill applies to projects in many urban and suburban areas. An earlier version of the legislation, SB 731, would have eliminated LOS standards statewide and replaced them with what essentially would have been an impact-fee based on VMT or some other systemic metric. Advocates say the weaker version in SB 743 still covers wide swaths of the state’s most populous areas, and that while it does not require statewide reform, it allows the Office of Planning and Research to accomplish such a change through rule making.
Amid this summer’s wildfires, drought and heat wave, many news articles and scholarly reports have focused on the changing climate’s effects on transportation. Reports include New York City’s subway leaking, buckling roads in Wisconsin, permafrost melting in Alaska, and predicted sea level rises along the East Coast. According to a new report from TRB, DOTs may have to adapt to new climate patterns.