Previously under LOS analysis, CEQA impacts were determined by measuring how much traffic congestion a project will cause at nearby street intersections. Therefore, CEQA mitigation focused on accommodating the additional traffic by improving or widening streets and intersections, which actually may increase driving and congestion in the long-run. Furthermore, building new streets and widening existing streets requires valuable land, which may not be readily available in built-out cities, and is costly to maintain.
Now with VMT analysis, CEQA mitigation focuses on reducing driving and dependence on cars. There are four key ways to lower VMT and mitigate transportation impacts.
- Project location, density, and diversity of land uses: Locate projects in areas with strong transit access, pedestrian and bicycle facilities, and complementary land uses. Design projects with higher densities and a mix of uses.
- Improvements to pedestrian, bicycle, and public transit networks: Encourage people to walk, bike and take public transit by making it easier and more convenient to travel without a car.
- Parking strategies: Do not overpark developments and even reduce parking where appropriate.
- Transportation Demand Management (TDM): Require employers to implement TDM strategies such as shuttle services and transit passes to incentivize employees to drive less to work.
In the past 50 to 70 years, suburban cities have been investing heavily in infrastructure for cars (i.e., streets and highways), but not significantly in any other transportation options. This next phase of transportation investment will focus on maximizing the existing transportation system in a healthier, more affordable, and more efficient way.