In an effort to more accurately measure the overall impact on traffic resulting from proposed developments, the City has changed its metric for transportation analysis under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) from Level of Service (LOS) to Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT).
Through the new VMT analysis, traffic will be evaluated based on the impact of vehicle miles traveled to a destination rather than the traffic impact experienced at any specific individual location. This change attempts to more accurately portray the traffic impact of development and subsequently address that impact through more detailed and regional traffic mitigation. This change has been implemented in order to comply with State Senate Bill SB-743 (Steinberg), and the City of San Jose is the first in Santa Clara County to move forward with VMT. Oakland and San Francisco have also already transitioned to this new metric.
This change in metrics intends to:
Streamline CEQA review for projects that improve infrastructure and safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit-riders while reducing the need to travel exclusively by automobile
Facilitate residential, commercial, and mixed-use infill projects that improve air quality by reducing the number of miles driven by automobiles
Focus CEQA transportation mitigation on pedestrian, bicycle, and transit facilities, as well as transportation demand management
Certain projects will not require VMT analysis if they meet screening criteria, that is if the project’s impact under VMT would be less-than-significant. These projects include transportation projects that reduce or do not increase VMT; small infill projects; local-serving retail; local-serving public facilities (libraries, community centers, parks, fire stations, etc.); transit-supportive development in Planned Growth Areas with low-VMT that are served by frequent transit; and transit-supportive restricted affordable housing in any Planned Growth Area with frequent transit.
I took lead in motioning support of the change to VMT and was happy to support staff’s recommendation in addition to most of Councilman Jimenez and Rocha’s amendments.
For more information, please see the memorandum on VMT.