Pasadena development review moves away from auto delay and toward auto miles traveled

By Eric Sundquist

The Southern California city of Pasadena is revising transportation performance measures it uses in development review, downplaying highway level of service and emphasizing vehicle miles traveled and multimodalism.

The city’s existing measures include intersection LOS for autos and auto volume on streets near the development. The city staff’s recommendation said that those measures “are silent with regard to system performance of non-auto modes and tend to generate mitigation solutions that encourage widening of intersections and streets, which may compromise the performance and safety of non-auto modes and are increasingly contrary to community values. Consequently, a more robust set of transportation performance measures has been developed to evaluate impact on the non-motorized modes as well as transit and to align with the sustainability goals of the General Plan by evaluating the ‘efficiency’ of projects by analyzing the per capita length and number of trips associated with changes in land use.”

New environmental review measures are shown below, along with the triggers for mitigation.

Metric Description Trigger
VMT per capita VMT in Pasadena per service population (population plus jobs) An increase over existing citywide VMT per capita
Vehicle trips per capita Vehicle trips in Pasadena per service population (population plus jobs) An increase over existing citywide vehicle trips per capita
Proximity and quality of bicycle network Percent of dwelling units and jobs within a quarter mile of bicycle facilities Any decrease in the percentage of dwelling units or jobs within a quarter-mile of bicycle facilities
Proximity and quality of transit network Percent of dwelling units and jobs within a quarter mile of transit facilities Any decrease in the percentage of dwelling units or jobs within a quarter-mile of transit facilities
Pedestrian accessibility Pedestrian Accessibility Score, which tallies destinations in a given walk shed Any decrease in the citywide Pedestrian Accessibility Score

 

Separately from the environmental review, Pasadena will still estimate LOS degradation and auto volume increases on nearby segments associated with large developments, requiring transportation demand management and other measures to reduce trips in some cases.

The Pasadena reforms, approved by the City Council November 3, come at a time when the state of California, in pursuance of SB 743 (2013), is also moving away from LOS-based environmental mitigation, which has sometimes added substantial costs to desired infill development. Regulations implementing the change are in rulemaking; the law was the subject of a recent SSTI webinar.

One issue in that rulemaking has been stakeholder concern about techniques for assessing VMT from new development. The Pasadena VMT measure, which relies on the city’s travel demand and dynamic travel analysis models, bolsters the argument that VMT-based measures are practical.

Eric Sundquist is Managing Director of SSTI.