Bay Area re-affirms its position as an environmental leader with SB 375 target recommendation

Affirming its place as one of the country’s leading regions on issues of growth, sustainability, public health and overall livability, today the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) took a historic vote and its commissioners and staff deserve to be congratulated for their leadership. Of California’s four largest regions implementing SB 375 – Sacramento, San Diego, Southern California and the Bay Area—MTC has now officially recommended and adopted the most ambitious targets in the state. MTC was the first of the regions to support SB 375 in 2008 and their leadership was key to its passage.

Reversing their planning committee’s recommendation of a 10% per capita reduction in passenger vehicle GHG emissions by 2035, the MTC full board voted 8 to 4 in favor of a more ambitious 15% target that will deliver significant co-benefits of better transit, improved air quality and public health, and reduced household transportation costs for  Bay Area residents.   

In explaining their reasons for supporting a 15% target, several commissioners cited statistics from the MTC staff presentation that higher GHG targets translate into further benefits for the region. Specifically, the economic savings from improved public health as a result of higher targets would be $140 million with a 15% target versus just $100 million with a 10 percent target. In addition, staff highlighted the greater reduction in traffic congestion and improved air quality with a 15% target as further compelling evidence for the need to adopt ambitious targets. Other board members cited a shifting market demand that is already pushing in the direction of more walkable, transit oriented communities—exactly the kind of growth needed to help the region achieve ambitious targets.

This vote represents a significant improvement over MTC’s starting place just a couple of months ago, when their adopted RTP would have increased GHG emissions by 2 percent per capita over 2005 levels. Today the MTC board voted to recommend their own target of a 15% reduction in per capita GHG emissions from 2005 levels to the Air Resources Board.  

SB 375 is California’s first-in-the-nation law designed to cut global warming pollution through the creation of more sustainable communities.  This vote comes as the California Air Resources Board takes the first major step towards implementing the law by assigning each region greenhouse gas reduction targets for 2020 and 2035.  The next step in the process is for the California Air Resources Board to set the final GHG reduction targets in September.

We have always known that MTC is a national leader on environmental issues and we are very pleased to see this leadership re-affirmed in today’s adoption of ambitious SB 375 targets.