Environmental and Economic Interests Are NOT Mutually Exclusive!

Opponents of California’s SB375, the landmark legislation that links land use to transportation funding, are gearing up to indefinitely suspend implementation of the new law.  They would tie implementation to the state achieving a very low unemployment rate, which in essence, neutralizes SB375 for the foreseeable future.

They are missing a key point.  This new framework for policy and funding decisions will actually improve the economy – both in the short term, and in a more sustainable way, long term.    The Urban Land Institute recently published its analysis of the economic implications of SB375.   In addition to environmental benefits, implementation of SB375 is also expected to help California accommodate growth in ways that are economically sound, and that generate economic benefits that progressively increase over time.  Among the economic benefits cited:

  • Long term savings in municipal service costs as initial high capital costs of supporting infill development are outweighed by the longer term, per capita savings in maintenance costs, services, and infrastructure
  • Increased development certainty, which will facilitate an efficient development process
  • Higher fare recovery and efficiencies in public transport as transit is built where it will be highly utilized
  • Improved public health (and associated savings to the health care system)
  • Decreased dependence on fossil fuels, thereby making California less vulnerable to energy pricing fluctuations
  • Increased competitiveness for Federal funding

The “new rules” are nothing to fear.  Linking land use to transportation isn’t even an entirely “new” concept.  Historically, developers have designed new roads, rail lines and other transportation modes into new projects.  Many were also operated (quite successfully) by the development community, as well.

 SB375 expands the definition of transportation to include more modes and prioritizes funding for projects based on efficiency and environmental impacts.  Isn’t that really a more responsible way to spend our scarce public resources?