Home > News > News Articles > 2014 > February > League Asks OPR to Carefully Consider Alternatives to LOS in CEQA Analysis of the Significance of Tr
News Feed

League Asks OPR to Carefully Consider Alternatives to LOS in CEQA Analysis of the Significance of Transportation Impacts

February 19, 2014
The Office of Planning and Research (OPR) took the first step towards implementation of SB 743 (Steinberg, 2013) when it released a document entitled “Preliminary Evaluation of Alternative Methods of Transportation Analysis” for which comments were due Feb. 14.
SB 743 directs OPR to propose revisions to the CEQA Guidelines by July 1, 2014 that establish criteria to evaluate the significance of transportation impacts of projects within transit priority areas. The criteria must promote the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the development of multimodal transportation networks and a diversity of land uses. After the guidelines take effect, automobile delay, measured solely by level of service (LOS), may not be considered a significant impact on the environment. SB 743 also authorizes (but does not require) OPR to propose revisions to the guidelines that establish alternative metrics for transportation impacts outside transit priority areas.
The League held a conference call with a group of city and county public works traffic engineers to listen to their concerns and comments about the OPR draft document. Their comments were incorporated into the League’s comment letter to OPR. The League’s letter provided OPR with the following feedback:
  • While automobile delay as measured by LOS may not be considered a “significant impact on the environment” after the guidelines have been adopted, SB 743 does not prohibit a lead agency from including automobile delay in a transportation analysis for the information of the decision-makers. 
  • Guideline revisions should acknowledge that LOS analysis may continue to be used to evaluate safety or any other impact associated with transportation other than automobile delay. 
  • Since the potentially significant transportation impacts of a project include the impacts on a State Highway that bisects or otherwise intersects with the incorporated boundaries of the city, the League encourages OPR to work with CalTrans to revise the department’s Guide for the Preparation of Traffic Impact Studies for State Highways to reflect the changes required by SB 743. 
  • Guideline revisions should include evidence that supports and explains how the new metrics promote multimodal transportation networks or a diversity of land uses.
  • The League requests that the guidelines acknowledge that SB 743 allows cities to enforce LOS standards in their general plans through conditions imposed on development projects that ensure consistency with the general plan standards. This clarification would avoid litigation that challenges such conditions on the basis that automobile delay as measured by LOS analysis may not be considered a significant adverse impact under CEQA or under any other statute. 
  • The League suggests that the revisions to the guidelines adopt the definition of “major transit stop” in SB 375 to ensure compliance with the fiscal constraints analysis of the regional transportation plan. 
  • The League urges OPR to first understand the impact of alternative metrics within transit priority areas before extending their reach to areas that are not served by public transit. 
  • The League suggests that the role parking plays in the analysis of transportation impacts is beyond the scope of amendments to the Guidelines.
Comments to OPR’s Preliminary Draft are the first of many steps before guidelines are adopted. If your city did not comment during this comment period, there will be future opportunities to participate.

© League of California Cities