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SCAG Moves Forward with Sustainable Transit Plan  


By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

February 2, 2012 -- If the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) approves a new sustainable transit plan this spring, it will likely echo many of the strategies laid out by Santa Monica's new Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE).

SCAG's new Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and Sustainability Communities Strategy (SCS), which will close public comment February 14 and move into the final stages, aims to reduce vehicle traffic and encourage people to ride bikes or walk when possible.

“We are charting a new way of looking at how we approach mobility in our region,” said Santa Monica City Council member Pam O'Connor, who has worked with SCAG since 1997 as a representative of the Westside cities and became president of the association in May 2011.

“This has really been a bottom up approach,” O'Connor said.

While the RTP is revisited every four years, this is the first time that SCAG has updated the document since California passed Senate Bill 375, which mandates that the State's 18 metropolitan planning organizations incorporate the Sustainability Communities Strategy SCS into the RTP.

The RTP/SCS is based on the concept that every community has its own needs and therefore requires its own strategies for sustainability. While Santa Monica's LUCE is a model for sustainable city planning, it isn't the only model, O'Connor said.

The RTP/SCS is also about sharing ideas, the council member said, adding that communities will benefit by cooperating on sustainable plans.

Santa Monica has been planning around the coming Expo Line, which is scheduled to reach the beachside city's Downtown in 2015 and will go far in reducing car trips in the area. But some regions, such as the South Bay won't, benefit from a light rail system, O'Connor said.

Officials in those areas are considering community electric cars that residents can use to get around instead of driving their own vehicles, she said.

SCAG encompasses six different counties – Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside and Imperial – and as such, it also emphasizes the need for greater interconnectivity between communities and counties.

One priority of the RTP/SCS is “a regional commitment for the broad deployment of zero and near-zero emission transportation technologies,” according the vision statement.

But a major concern is money, the majority of which comes from municipalities, which are starpped for cash.

Under the current funding scenario, there is not enough money to maintain and repair the current transit infrastructure in the Southern California area, O'Connor said.

As a result, the RTP looks at ways to increase funding -- including the possibility of a mileage tax to replace the gas tax -- to maintain roads, bridges and other elements of the transit system.

One thing O'Connor is confident about is that the impact of this RTP/SCS won't be limited to Southern California.

She hopes that this RTP/SCS will serve as “a model for other metropolitan planning organizations in California and our country.”

The draft RTP/SCS is available online at SCAGG hopes to ratify the document on April 4.


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