More travel choices

Mike McKeever is executive director of the Sacramento Area Council of Governments.

The Sacramento region is just months away from adopting a plan that accomplishes something no other part of this state has to date—reining in the huge number of miles we drive and the tailpipe emissions this creates. This good news from the Metropolitan Transportation Plan for 2035 impacts more than our daily commute. As the next step in our region’s transportation blueprint, planning our land uses in a smarter way, the MTP’s transportation investments help reduce future greenhouse-gas emissions.

Development patterns are both a key contributor to climate change and an essential factor in combating it. Through providing a wider range of housing choice, locating homes and jobs closer together, and focusing our growth in and around existing urban areas, we will be able to build a transportation system that reverses a decades-long trend of higher and higher greenhouse emissions by the average household’s travel. This is because many more people will be using transit, walking and bicycling; and while the large majority of trips still will be by car, the average vehicle miles traveled during a typical day will be less in the future than it is today. This has the added benefit of giving people back more of their day for activities other than sitting in their cars.

No one knows for sure what will happen in the near future with gasoline prices, the availability of oil, or the pace of climate change. What we do know is that the MTP’s land-use pattern and transportation investments will assist in building quality neighborhoods and communities and help to insulate this region from the possible negative impacts of expensive gas, disruptions in the oil supply, or both.

It does this by making choices to travel by means other than the automobile much more viable than they are today. For example, the percentage of households within an easy walk of high-quality transit service (buses or trains at least every 15 minutes) rises from 4.5 percent today to 13.4 percent by 2035 in the MTP draft. This represents a 385-percent increase in households with access to high-quality transit.

All of this helps to ensure that our region is leading the way in doing our part to meet the requirements of California’s nation-leading climate-change legislation, AB 32.