Pushing for Strong Support for Walking and Bicycling in Plan Bay Area

Marty MartinezThe Safe Routes to School National Partnership (National Partnership) submitted comments on the Draft Plan Bay Area and the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR), both of which will have massive impacts on active transportation, public transit, housing, and other factors affecting the growth, health, and the climate of the region for years to come. We are very excited to be able to weigh in on this important process and to push for stronger support for walking and bicycling in the region. We also worked with partner organizations in housing and equity to sign on to comments that are even broader.

Our comments emphasized the need for much larger regional investments in active transportation. The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), our regional planning bodies, adopted broad goals for increasing walking and bicycling in the region to improve our health and protect our climate. But the region will not come anywhere close to meeting those goals without a significant investment in programs that directly increase walking and bicycling, such as the Regional Safe Routes to School program.

Nearly three years in the making, Plan Bay Area is an integrated long-range transportation and land-use/housing plan that will support a growing economy, provide more housing and transportation choices, and reduce transportation-related pollution in the San Francisco Bay Area. The effort grew out of the California Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008 (California Senate Bill 375, Steinberg), which requires each of the state’s 18 metropolitan areas – including the Bay Area – to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks.

State law requires MTC and ABAG to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Plan Bay Area. Under the law known as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), MTC and ABAG must inform decision makers and the general public of the range of potential environmental impacts that could result from the implementation Plan Bay Area. The EIR examines a range of reasonable alternatives, identify the environmentally superior alternative and recommend a set of measures to mitigate the impacts of the selected alternative. The EIR for Plan Bay Area is being developed on a parallel track as the actual plan, and both documents are scheduled to be adopted simultaneously in summer 2013.

To truly make the Bay Area sustainable, MTC needs to make a much, much larger investment in active transportation, including a significant increase in the Regional Safe Routes to School Program and reinstatement of the Regional Bicycle Program. In addition, improved evaluation and monitoring of the Complete Streets and One Bay Area Grant (OBAG) requirements as well as increased data collection on active  transportation and improved modeling of the benefits are essential for forward progress. For more information on the Draft EIR or Draft Plan Bay Area, please visit onebayarea.org.

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