SoCal News: Connect SoCal Draft Must Address Covid-19 and Other Concerns

Monday, April 20, 2020

UPDATE: April 20, 2020

Since this E-news was first released on April 9th, The Partnership worked with 11 other organizations to submit a letter on Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG)'s Connect SoCal amidst COVID-19 concerns. The letter urges SCAG to request a federal extension on adopting the proposed final draft of Connect SoCal. Among concerns, we elevate the need to host listening sessions to define community needs and strategies to address priorities. The letter also outlines the need to expand "transportation safety" definition to allow for more funding to support transit safety services, environmental justice and emergency resilience planning. You can read our comment letter here.

StreetsBlog Los Angeles also released a podcast interview with the Partnership's SoCal Equity & Policy Manager Demi Espinoza by Santa Ana Active Streets' Project Director Kris Fortin.

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The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) released their Proposed Final Draft of Connect SoCal, the Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities Strategy 2020 update with its accompanying 10 technical reports and project list. The date on which the Regional Council is to vote on the draft is to be determined due to the impact of COVID-19, as many planning timeline processes are being shifted. SCAG released a statement saying they are working “to confirm timing for a Regional Council meeting at which the Regional Council will consider certification of the Proposed Final PEIR and adoption of the Proposed Final Connect SoCal. We will notify all interested parties of the date and meeting details as soon as they are finalized. While compliance with all legal requirements is of the utmost priority, we will continue to monitor the situation closely and follow guidance from local, state and federal health agencies.” 

In January, Safe Routes Partnership worked with 16 other regional organizations to submit comments to the draft that included increased active transportation investments, stronger metrics for community engagement, set aside investments for environmental justice planning, and more accessible data--just to name a few. In early March, staff released a report addressing public comments explaining any changes to the RTP/SCS. Unfortunately, many of the comments that we submitted collectively with 16 organizations were not adopted into the plan and the reasoning was insufficiently addressed in the staff report. In addition to our previously expressed comments, we are also now concerned about COVID-19’s impact on Connect SoCal.  The pandemic could have long-lasting impacts on our region, and it is unclear if staff will pause to consider adjustments to Connect SoCal’s plans and goals. 

We will re-submit our comments regarding Connect SoCal, and urge SCAG to revisit the plan in light of COVID-19’s impact on public health, economic hardship, and environmental justice issues. We urge SCAG to host a community engagement virtual listening session to hear from stakeholders on how the pandemic impacts their community’s priorities, how they’ve adapted their transportation needs, and what public health concerns they have. We believe SCAG has an obligation to prioritize investments in public health and transportation safety projects that center community needs at the given moment. We will update this process on our blog and through our newsletter as it unfolds.