SB 743 (Steinberg, 2013) updates the way transportation impacts are measured in California for new projects, making sure they are built in a way that allows Californians more options to drive less. Under SB 743, CEQA analysis can no longer use road congestion or the amount of time a driver is delayed on the road – commonly measured by level of service (LOS) – when analyzing transportation impacts. Therefore, instead of using LOS, a project’s environmental impacts must be evaluated by the amount and distance people drive to destinations. SB 743 requires the amount of driving and length of trips – as measured by “vehicle miles traveled” or VMT – be used to assess transportation impacts on the environment for CEQA review. These impacts will be reduced or “mitigated” by options such as increasing transit, providing for active transportation such as walking and biking, and participating in mitigation banks. SB 743 also allows for projects meeting certain criteria to be exempt from CEQA.
The California Natural Resources Agency has certified and adopted the CEQA Guidelines update implementing Senate Bill 743 (§ 15064.3). Caltrans has now issued its guidance on how VMT impacts to the state highway system with be identified and reviewed.