Education/Webinars Mentorship

Happy Holidays from Policy in Motion

The holiday season is always a good time for reflection on what we’ve achieved in the transportation and sustainability planning profession, as well as thinking about the upcoming year’s goals.  However, the other 11 months of the year often fly by us in a frenzy as we are inundated with deadlines and meetings.  Here at Policy in Motion I’ve learned a trick to balancing out the immediate demands of work with long-term thinking: MENTORING

It may sound like something that just requires more time, but incorporating professional and personal mentorship into our schedules is the best thing we can do not only for our future transportation and planning leaders, but for ourselves too.

I started the Policy in Motion “Career Development” Mentorship Program in 2011 as a way to bridge student interests with real-world projects.  I’ve since worked with half a dozen high school, undergraduates, and grad school students on projects in the Sacramento region and it has been a joy to see these bright leaders go on to pursue careers in the public, private, and academic transportation sectors.

This year I have the great pleasure of mentoring a young professional through the American Planning Association’s “Planning+Leadership+Advancement+Networking” (PLAN) Mentorship Program with 10 other mentors and their mentees.  Say hello to Emily!

Emily Alice Gerhart is a recent graduate of UC Davis, with a Bachelor of Science in Community and Regional Development and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations.  She is a project coordinator at WALKSacramento, a non-profit that promotes walkable communities through active transportation planning and advocacy.  She currently works on a variety of projects, leading a Safe Routes to School project in West Sacramento, reviewing development projects and plans, and analyzing regional policies related to Complete Streets. Emily was an invited speaker at the Pedestrians Count! 2014 statewide conference in May 2014, where she gave a presentation on using social media to achieve pedestrian advocacy and outreach goals. In Fall 2014, she was accepted into the American Planning Association award-winning PLAN Sac Valley mentorship program for aspiring planners.  Emily Alice is passionate about creating safe public spaces and promoting active transportation through urban and environmental design.

Here are a few easy tips on how to help students succeed:

  • Share internship opportunities with related programs at local Universities. For example, contact Cynthia Goldberg at the UC Davis Internship and Career Center with internship announcements related to environmental planning/policy at
  • Volunteer with college outreach activities through a local professional organization, such as the Women’s Transportation Seminar, American Planning Association, Urban Land Institute, or the Institute of Transportation Engineers.
  • Encourage your agency, company, or organization to make donations to local scholarship funds.  Most professional organizations have a student scholarship program. Share information about these scholarship opportunities with local teachers and advisors.
  • Meet for coffee — invite a young professional at your organization or someone you met in a meeting out for a morning coffee.  The best mentorship is subtle, casual, and genuine.
  • Bring a student or young professional with you next time you have a WTS luncheon, ITE holiday party, APA planning program, or ULI happy hour. Introduce them to others in the field. Mentorship breeds easily :)

Happy Holidays Everyone!



SB 375: Still Ambitious & Achievable?

Hope everyone had a Thanksgiving full of love and gratitude. Hard to believe it’s already the last month of 2014! Approaching a new year is a great time of reflection on where we’ve been and what our goals are going forward. I’d like to take this opportunity to offer some reflections on one of the key areas in the transportation sector: SB 375.

In 2008, California established a process and program for regional GHG reduction from land use — SB 375.  SB 375 was crafted to be a performance-based, yet flexible, approach to meeting greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals. It successfully blended the need for “ambitious” GHG reduction goals with an “achievable” and practical approach so that cities and counties could ultimately create significant changes in land use patterns.  Because it is actually land use, not transportation investments, that create the most GHG reduction impacts.  This successful approach emerged not magically overnight, but after a year of collaboration via the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) Regional Targets Advisory Committee who examined the best approach to create meaningful GHG reduction goals for SB 375.  And it was that process that led to every MPO creating a Sustainable Communities Strategy that actually hit the State-assigned GHG target for their region.  Remember the Alternative Planning Strategy?  That was supposed to be the Plan B for any MPO who couldn’t create a Regional Transportation Plan that hit its target — but because of the performance-based approach in the crafting of these plans, MPOs were all able to make it happen.

Now it’s time to help those responsible for IMPLEMENTING these plans — local cites and counties.  Local governments deserve the same thoughtfulness and approach that worked for the MPOs if we want to see SB 375 be truly successful.  It is the responsibility of the State to ensure that the all the great work done to date follows in the original spirit of SB 375:  tackling these ambitious GHG goals through an achievable, performance-based approach — maximizing GHG reduction while creating ample flexibility for the communities who must now implement these regional plans.

As we approach 2015 in an era of cap and trade funding possibilities, we have an incredible opportunity to make this happen.  But only if we do it right.  Lack of funding for the SB 375 process presents a threat to AB 32 and all of the existing work that CARB and the MPOs have done since 2008.  Funding individual transportation and housing projects alone that happen to be consistent with the Regional Transportation Plan isn’t really what SB 375 is about, nor is that the way to maximize ambitious GHG reduction.  Funding should be prioritized to projects that create the greatest GHG benefits under the Sustainable Communities Strategy. While the cap and trade program is a start, it needs not only more attention in the administration of the first year funding, but significantly more funding for future years.  And the only way to make the case for more funding is to show that we can do a really good job with limited resources in the first year.

So what do we need to do?  I think we need to look backward before we can look forward.  Six years ago we decided to pass a landmark bill that included in it a process for collaboration with technical, policy, and political experts.  We then identified what was needed: better transportation and land use modeling so that we could create these plans.  The Strategic Growth Council allocated $12 million in Prop 84 funding to the MPOs so that they could build modeling capacity to make this process actually take off. That’s what we need now, but it’s time to shift focus from the MPOs who have been so successful in helping us get this far and figure out how we can empower local communities to do the implementation side.  Because local agencies and institutions are at the front lines of implementing SB 375. Let’s ensure that local government gets the chance it now needs to create “ambitious and achievable” SB 375 implementation.

Cap and trade is our one shot this decade to make SB 375 work.  For the next year let’s focus on giving locals maximum flexibility to achieve maximum GHG reduction.  And the great thing?  When we empower communities to come up with their own innovative solutions they not only reduce GHG emissions even more than expected, but they maximize other community benefits like better health, better access, and better quality of life.

For more background on SB 375 check out the policy blog archives on for articles such as this one from 2011:Targets and Goal Setting