Legislative briefing: Connecting transportation spending to its impacts on people and the climate

January 21, 2016
By Carey Knecht, Director

Billions of dollars for transportation and infrastructure investments are at stake in the state budget, legislative proposals, and the Extraordinary Session on Transportation and Infrastructure Development. But are these dollars actually being spent in ways that will fight climate change, bring transportation options to the people who need it most, and create healthier communities? What more could the state do with these funds?

To answer these questions, last Thursday, ClimatePlan gave a legislative briefing to a packed house on “The Transportation Special Session: Climate Change, Equity, and Local Impacts.”Full house

Fifty attendees squeezed together in the high-ceilinged hearing room to hear what our speakers had to say about how California’s transportation investments, and how they can be used to meet state climate goals and serve the needs of local communities.

We want to thank Senator Allen and his staff for all their help in making the event possible.

The event was co-sponsored by a diverse group of non-profit partners who have been working hard to ensure that California uses its transportation funds wisely — the American Heart Association, California Bicycle Coalition, California Walks, MoveLA, The Nature Conservancy, PolicyLink, Public Advocates, Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership, and TransForm.

The briefing (agenda here) featured presentations from two panels.

First Panel_cropSpeakers on the first panel talked about how transportation investments could meet state goals to address climate change, invest in disadvantaged communities, and conserve high-value landscapes and working lands.

As part of the first panel, we were pleased to welcome Brian Annis, Undersecretary for the California State Transportation Agency, and Kate White, Deputy Secretary of Environmental Policy and Housing Coordination, who outlined the current budget and how it relates to the transportation agency’s work to meet climate goals.

Second panelThe second panel featured speakers from around the state, including Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, Sacramento, the Bay Area, and Fresno. Each shared stories of the challenges faced by community members and outlined how the state could meet those needs by expanding transportation choices.

A few highlights included:

Daniel Tabor, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Southwest College Foundation and former Mayor of Inglewood, told of one student who rose at 5:30 AM to take three buses to school in time for his 8 AM class. After his evening study groups, he begins the ride home, arriving home at nearly midnight.

Fresno neighborhood leader Francisco Mendez shared his experiences; he was formerly a dairy and agricultural worker who drove large trucks and worked in the fields — until he lost his sight. He now uses public transit to meet his daily needs and do community service as well; he passionately described how the state’s transportation investments can better serve its residents.

Three main messages came through clearly:

–        California’s transportation investments provide an important opportunity – an opportunity we can only seize if the investments are guided by key state goals: to address climate change, expand access to opportunity by addressing historic patterns of disinvestment, and conserve important natural and working landscapes.

–        As a state, we know the kind of investments that are needed to meet these goals. California’s hard working agencies have created detailed plans for achieving those goals. They have pioneered programs that simply need more funding — such as California’s Active Transportation program, which recently received applications from local communities that were nearly eight times the available $120 million annually to support healthy and sustainable walking and biking projects. And California’s residents know what projects can best meet the needs in their neighborhoods.

–        These investments should meet the needs of California’s communities around the state – particularly those that have been historically underserved. These investments should not leave out the needs of those who cannot drive — including California’s youth and seniors, and people with disabilities — and should address historic infrastructure gaps in urban and rural communities.

If you missed it, you can catch up:

Want to know more? Many of ClimatePlan’s partners have submitted comments about the special session in October and a recent joint statement on the Governor’s budget.

It’s so important to stop putting money toward widening highways, and instead start meeting our climate and health goals and making people’s lives better.

We’ve got a long way to go, but we’ve started to make those connections. We are committed to keep moving ahead.

Copyright © ClimatePlan 2011
Website Design and development by Digital Gear