RM3 Independent Oversight Committee: Appointee Update
In June 2019, BATA established the Regional Measure 3 Independent Oversight Committee, as required by the legislation that created RM3 (Senate Bill 595). This committee has several responsibilities laid out in statute, and is to be comprised of two representatives from each county in MTC’s jurisdiction, appointed by the applicable county board of supervisors. Statute also limits who may serve on the committee relative to current or recent employment with MTC, BATA, or entities receiving funding from MTC or BATA. Since this spring, MTC staff have been working with county boards of supervisors to fill out the committee roster, in order to meet the statutory requirement – even while the RM3 legal challenges remain. Several counties have not yet submitted their appointees including Napa, San Francisco, and Sonoma counties. Assistance from Commissioners in those counties to complete the appointments would certainly be appreciated. The next roster update is anticipated to be on the October BATA Oversight Committee agenda.
There has been several legislative developments that directly affect the work of MTC and ABAG. LPA will provide an overview of how these initiatives will directly impact the work of MTC and ABAG.
Mega-Measure (FASTER Bay Area)
The coalition advancing the “mega” transportation revenue measure, coined “FASTER Bay Area”, has been recently making public presentations on their proposal, after several months of reconnaissance discussions throughout the Bay Area transportation community. The Chair has requested that the Executive Committee hold a meeting on October 11, 2019 to review the proposal’s current schedule and substance, as we understand it, in preparation for a presentation by the FASTER team to the full Commission on October 23rd.
On September 19, 2019, the ABAG Executive Committee approved the members of the Housing Methodology Committee (HMC) for the Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA) process. This first official action kicked off the 6th cycle of a state mandated process well known in the region that will assign to counties and counties the number of housing units by affordability level that each jurisdiction must accommodate in its adopted Housing Element. This is a significant and intensive planning effort, and we expect the State’s target for the region to be much higher in this round than in the past. As well, the State has created for itself new legal remedies for enforcement, and provisions imposing new required factors and considerations, including fair housing.
As the COG for the San Francisco Bay Area, ABAG is statutorily responsible to distribute the Bay Area’s allocation from Sacramento into a number for each city and county, a critical coordination role since—without it— each local government would be left to work directly, and alone with Sacramento on its individual goals as is the case for cities in areas without a COG. It is a task that it’s difficult and often criticized, but crucial nonetheless.
We as staff will support ABAG by taking every available opportunity to get the RHNA message out including outreach meetings, our webpages, e-newsletters, social media and press releases.
Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient (SAFE) Vehicle Rule Update
California and the Trump Administration have been locked in a legal and political battle over the administration’s Safer Affordable Fuel Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule – the proposal to rollback Obama-era fuel efficiency standards – since it was first proposed in 2018. On September 19th, the Trump Administration revoked the waiver that allows California to set stricter rules to address the state’s unique air quality challenges, making good on its stated intent to repeal California’s waiver independently from – and in advance of – the larger rulemaking. We expect that the administration will continue to make every effort to rollback fuel economy standards and that California will lead the charge to oppose the rulemaking. On September 20, 2019 23 states led by California plus the District of Columbia and cities of Los Angeles and New York filed a complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief. This initiates what we expect to be a suite of legal and/or legislative strategies to mitigate project-level impacts, as the Administration’s actions put the rule into effect.
A rollback of fuel economy standards raises a number of concerns for MTC and our counterparts throughout the state. First and foremost, revoking these mandates would hinder ongoing statewide efforts to combat climate change and improve public health. Also, more technically, but very important to MTC and other transportation agencies, rolling back national fuel economy standards and/or revoking California’s waiver would invalidate California’s air quality emissions model – the tool metropolitan planning organizations (MPO) and Caltrans use to perform routine air quality analyses mandated by the federal government. Without a valid model, MTC’s adoption of our 2021 regional transportation plan (RTP) update (Plan Bay Area 2050) and transportation improvement plan (TIP) update are at risk. More immediately, MTC would face strict limitations on our ability to amend or add certain projects, such as highway and transit expansion projects, to the Bay Area’s current TIP and RTP – we would be unable to make changes that trigger air quality conformity review. Additionally, projects undergoing National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review requiring new or updated air quality conformity analysis would be unable to complete NEPA until a new emissions model is approved by the federal government, which the California Air Resources Board estimates could take up to three years.
Women’s Issues In Transportation (WIiT) Conference
On September 11-13, 2019, I had the privilege of co-chairing the 6th international Women’s issues in Transportation, sponsored by the Transportation Research Board. Focusing on the triple themes of “Insight, Inclusion, and Impact”, the conference was a great success, breaking all prior attendance records and drawing participants from 27 different counties, including those from the global south. MTC staff contributed to the conference aiding a team in the production of a video spotlighting research being done around the world to address the challenge of sexual harassment on public transportation systems, one of many of the critical issues affecting women’s mobility and its impact on their access and opportunities in society. We will be posting a conference highlight on the website, and will consider the proceedings in our planning work going forward.