In recent weeks, the State has released two high-profile reports outlining the need to reshape California’s transportation system, with sustainability now joining the ranks of safety and mobility as key system objectives.
Over the past year, California State Transportation Agency (CalSTA) Secretary Brian Kelly has consulted the California Transportation Infrastructure Priorities (CTIP) Workgroup—including California WALKS Deputy Director, Tony Dang—to help craft a new vision for the State’s transportation system. The CTIP Vision and Interim Recommendations report explicitly recognizes that “fast, clean, efficient, and convenient alternatives to vehicular travel for all Californians, including those who do not drive due to age, ability, income or choice…are necessary for the state to achieve its sustainability objectives….” Input from the active transportation members of the Workgroup influenced the 2014-15 Governor’s Budget, with an accelerated repayment of active transportation loans totaling a one-time $9 million boost for the new Active Transportation Program.
While Cal WALKS is thrilled to see sustainability at the forefront of state transportation investment priorities and policies going forward, we do not want safety—particularly for people walking and biking—left by the wayside. With people walking now comprising nearly 25% of traffic fatalities (despite making only 13.5% of all trips), pedestrian safety is at a crisis point that would benefit from a refocused and increased State commitment. Cal WALKS Executive Director Wendy Alfsen underscores that, “[t]hese deaths are preventable, and the State needs to back up any stated commitment to safety with actual dollar investments.” In further developing longer-term CTIP recommendations, Cal WALKS urges CalSTA to increase the State’s investment in safety for active transportation users, tied to ambitious goals and enforceable performance metrics. We stand ready to work with CalSTA to champion multimodal design standards to implement infrastructure and traffic operations improvements that have been proven to save lives.
A key pillar of Secretary Kelly’s ambitious vision for California is the reform and modernization of Caltrans—called for in the recent release of an external, independent review of Caltrans by the State Smart Transportation Initiative (SSTI). The SSTI report, though critical, highlighted many long-standing and well-known problems, including the Department’s highway-centric/automobile-driven culture and its inability to adapt to the multimodal standard required by the State’s climate legislation (AB 32, SB 375, and SB 391). Fortunately, the SSTI report outlines several near-term practical steps, including:
- Alignment of Caltran’s mission, vision and goals to be fully consistent with state planning and policy goals—especially in the development of its 5-Year Strategic Plan and the forthcoming California Transportation Plan 2040;
- Better matching State investments to align with the revised mission, vision and goals;
- Implementation of the Smart Mobility Framework; and
- Adoption of modern state design guidance as outlined in the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) Urban Street Design Guide for state-owned metropolitan facilities.
Cal WALKS strongly supports the recommendations put forth by the SSTI report, and urge the Governor, Legislature, and CalSTA to ensure full funding and staffing to implement these monumental changes. If the State is serious about reshaping Caltrans to deliver a multimodal and sustainable transportation system, current and proposed investments—including the Governor’s 2014-15 Budget, the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), and the Department of Finance’s 5-Year Infrastructure Investment Plan 2014—must shift investments toward both public transit and active transportation—and away from new highway capacity—rather than perpetuating business as usual. Cal WALKS urges the State to reprioritize its transportation investments to usher in a new multimodal era in the State, with full funding to implement Caltrans’ development of a sustainable, multimodal transportation system.