The nature of transportation funding is a cycle of birth and death. Despite clear state policy goals to address the transportation sector’s 38% contribution to California’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions inventory, funding for needed sustainable community investments to implement such goals has seen levels of uncertainty that make progress equally uncertain. From years of local public transit cuts and underfunded local road maintenance needs to recent slashes for complete streets and Safe Routes to School in the federal transportation bill – hope still prevails with billions approved by the State for high speed rail, possibilities for redevelopment reincarnation, and the promise of new cap and trade revenue from fuels. California not only has opportunities like leveraging its investments in high speed rail with cap and trade funding for sustainable communities, but will need to act on them given the dismal federal transportation reauthorization vision for integrated transportation and land use systems.
But it’s not all dismal!
On August 10th Growing Beautiful Communities will depict how an integrated approach to transportation planning and funding can improve community quality of life while meeting California’s environmental and economic goals.
Uncertainty can breed creativity. I made a documentary on that premise. California can make history. The State can leverage the lack of federal vision to do something really innovative for transportation funding in California – the same way the lack of federal GHG reduction leadership led to state climate action plans across the country starting here.
California has the potential to capitalize on its $8 billion investment in high speed rail and do everything the federal transportation bill is missing for transformative transportation — we can achieve a vision for sustainable communities and reduced greenhouse gas emissions through the creation of an integrated transportation funding program which:
- Draws on a new source of transportation revenues, offering multi-year financial stability to communities and regions implementing projects
- Creates flexibility to use funds for needed transit operations and maintenance investments
- Provides funding for road and bridge repair to improve transportation efficiency
- Expands active transportation, complete streets and transportation enhancement infrastructure
- Incentivizes transportation innovation from regional and local governments
- Measures meaningful performance to tie transportation investments to GHG emission reduction, as well as other benefits like health, energy, water, cost-effectiveness, and agricultural resources.
- Integrates intercity, rural, and local transit, roads, and active transportation infrastructure with regional land use planning and local project implementation
- Invests in existing communities by offsetting the high cost of infill development
- Promotes inter- and intra-jurisdictional collaboration between institutions like local/regional planning departments and school and medical campuses
We can learn from the past, capitalize on the present, and make the future a reality through innovative transportation funding.