If we had to sum up the first-ever Joint Air Resources Board (ARB) and California Transportation Commission (CTC) meeting in a word, we’d go with “hopeful“. CalBike and more than a dozen of our allies and partners wouldn’t have missed this important inaugural joint meeting brought about by CalBike-supported Assembly Bill 179, introduced by Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes (D-Corona), part of a series of efforts to reform the powerful California Transportation Commission, an executive body with far-reaching impact.
The public comments from CalBike’s policy team and our fellow advocates made clear that reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and Greenhouse Gases (GHGs), improving air quality, increasing public accountability, and achieving a more just transportation system are critical priorities for our diverse communities.
Two publicly available summaries have been developed since then from Streetsblog and California Association of Councils of Government (CALCOG). The two summaries have a different take of the meeting, but both encapsulate it well within their own perspectives. What the summaries – and public comments at the meeting – do make clear is that there is tremendous interest in public stakeholders being more involved in coordination between the two agencies. Attendees at the joint meeting were clear: the ability of the public to provide oversight, accountability, and engagement with any joint actions is absolutely imperative.
It was also clear from the 4-hour meeting that Air Resources Board staff and board-members were already well versed in the state’s sustainable transportation goals. This makes sense, because the ARB’s chief role is to regulate toxic air and the agency acknowledges that the transportation sector is the leading state emitter. On the other hand and contrary to common sense, the California Transportation Commission, which is primarily charged with allocating billions of transportation investments, was clearly out of touch with decreasing VMT and GHGs, and with improving California’s toxic air and lack of social equity. As the two major agencies continue to develop closer relationships, and closer coordination, we hope substantial progress can be made in meeting California’s need for cleaner air, more transportation options, and, ultimately, redress and resolution of the inequities directly caused or influenced by California’s transportation investments. To get our state on the right track, both agencies have to be on the same page.
Timing, as always, has been critical in driving change. Just last week, the ARB released new data showing that the state has hit its 2020 GHG goals ahead of schedule. Superficially, this is great news. At the same time, however, the data also showed that the transportation sector did not substantially play into these achievements. Meeting our 2030 and 2050 greenhouse gas reduction goals is impossible without completely reconstructing our transportation system.
This is where we all have the tremendous opportunity for joint action of the ARB and CTC, and it must be immediate, substantial, and comprehensively coordinated. Stay tuned in the coming weeks and months as CalBike, and our partners, continue to challenge the authorities entrusted to defend our environment and our families to uphold California’s ambitious GHG targets. But, just as importantly, the air quality, equity, and mobility regulations, strategies, and policies that meet the actual needs of ordinary residents. We will be offering specific and detailed recommendations on ways to get there. The next joint meeting is December 4th in Los Angeles, and we are hoping that many others can be involved in this momentous, and hopeful, collaboration ahead.