Transportation (and particularly passenger cars) contributes 40 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the Bay Area. To help reduce transportation impacts on the environment, Gov Jerry Brown in 2013 signed Senate Bill 743, which moves California away from evaluating traffic congestion as a significant environmental impact under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Instead, SB 743 directs that transportation impacts must focus on reducing the amount of driving by evaluating vehicle-miles traveled, or VMT.
SB 743 is a shift from level of service (LOS) to vehicle miles traveled (VMT) for assessing transportation impacts under CEQA. This bill was signed into law in 2013 and went into effect July 1, 2020. Guidelines for implementation were adopted in 2018 through new CEQA regulations. The guidelines balance the need to manage congestion, statewide goals related to infill development, transit investments, promotion of public health through active transportation and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
The information below is targeted toward Lead Agencies, defined by CEQA as a public agency that has the primary responsibility for carrying out or approving a project. While MTC and The Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) do not have a formal role, the legislative intent of SB 743 aligns with Plan Bay Area 2040 strategies for focusing growth through the Priority Development Area framework, investing in multi-modal transportation programs and infrastructure, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
In an effort to assist local jurisdictions with SB 743 implementation, MTC has provided technical assistance through its Priority Development Area (PDA) Technical and Staffing Assistance Program and other initiatives. Based on the outcomes and lessons of these efforts, MTC has created the following resources that may be helpful to jurisdictions as they transition from LOS to VMT:
- Key SB 743 Implementation Steps for Land Use Projects
- Bay Area SB 743 implementation examples funded through MTC’s PDA Technical/Staffing Assistance Program (check back as additional materials become available as cities move through the process):
- Concord Planning Commission presentation
- Fremont Planning Commission presentation
- Hayward Planning Commission presentation
- Planning Innovations Workshop 4: Moving from LOS to VMT: Making SB 743 an Asset to Your Community
- Planning Innovations Workshop 7: SB 743 Implementation Strategies: Moving from LOS to VMT - Part II: Show Me the (Fee) Money!
- Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s (VTA) Countywide VMT Evaluation Tool for local jurisdictions and developers to estimate VMT for land use projects and calculating reductions associated with VMT-reducing measures
The resources below provide background and context related to SB 743 and rationale behind the shift from LOS to VMT:
- Technical advisory and other resources on SB 743 on OPR's website
- Background on VMT and LOS:
- Caltrans SB 743 Implementation
- VTA Level of Service (LOS) to Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) Transition resources
- SB 743 Case Studies
Note: Each lead agency should consult with CEQA experts and legal counsel regarding local CEQA practices and updates to local policies. This document provides guidance but is not a legal document or legal interpretation of the law.