Transportation Impact Analysis
Case Study – City of Oakland: Transitioning to Vehicle Miles Traveled
Modernizing the Transportation Impact Review Process
Place-type: Urban Neighborhood
The City of Oakland has adopted a new methodology for traffic management with the goal of minimizing the need for new road and parking capacity and associated impacts on community livability. This methodology will address transportation impacts measured in Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) instead of the more conventional model focusing on motor vehicle delay measured in Level of Service (LOS). VMT-focused policy has several benefits. Firstly, it prioritizes mobility (getting people where they need to go) while reducing the number of vehicles miles needed to do so. Compared with LOS’ optimization of speed of travel, VMT works towards reduced emissions from transportation. Secondly, VMT provides a more accurate understanding of land development impacts on highways, public transit systems, and bicycle and pedestrian conditions. Lastly, VMT makes it simpler to calculate and measure regional impacts instead of just local impacts. This methodology will reduce requirements for unnecessarily wide traffic lanes and support more vibrant walkable communities. The VMT approach was created when it became apparent that LOS used in the CEQA guidelines detracted from efforts to create higher quality walkable development.
Policies/Ordinances that Contributed to Success
This policy change is part of a broader array of strategies outlined in The City of Oakland’s newly developed Transportation Strategic Plan. The plan is based on a vision for the city and how the Oakland Department of Transportation serves it in four key areas: equity, safety, sound infrastructure, and responsible governance. The City of Oakland Modernizing Transportation Impact Review Project and the shift to VMT-oriented policy were enacted in response to the requirements of SB 743.
On April 14, 2017, The City of Oakland issued Transportation Impact Review Guidelines that incorporated guidance on using VMT as a key metric in transportation impact analysis of new land development. This guidance conforms with the CEQA Update and Technical Advisory issued by the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research. The City of Oakland considered a variety of metrics in revising its transportation impact review process. VMT was chosen to align with state policy in conjunction with SB 743 and as a robust indicator of the transportation impact of new development.
Cities in California will have until January 2020 to comply with SB 743. Use of VMT as a transportation impact analysis metric will promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the development of multimodal transportation networks, and a diversity of land uses. The Office of Planning and Research has selected VMT as a replacement measure for LOS not only because it satisfies the explicit goals of SB 743, but also because agencies should already be familiar with this metric. Several cities, including Pasadena and San Francisco, have already implemented the changes.
It is anticipated that this approach will achieve the GHG emission reduction goals; align transportation analysis under CEQA; simplify the land entitlement review process; allow local agencies discretion in implementing circulation systems; and encourage policy trade-offs in dealing with traffic congestion.
Summary of Best Practices, Transportation Impact Review Streamlining
- City of Oakland (2018). Modernizing Transportation Impact Review Project