October 30, 1993 - From the October, 1993 issue

Traffic Congestion: Deficiency Plan To Be adopted by County in November

By Larry Kosmont & Toby LierbermanLarry Kosmont is President of Kosmont & Associates, a real estate, transportation and air quality firm in Los Angeles; Toby Lieberman in a Project Analyst with Kosmont & Associates.

Question: What has a toolbox, debits and credits and reduces daily vehicle trips? 

Answer: A vanpool with a carpenter and an accountant! 

Wrong! Would you believe, it's the Countywide Deficiency Plan (CDP). 

The newest transportation rules and regulations playbook has hit the streets. It's clever, has a long term perspective, and gives cities a great deal of latitude in tailoring strategies to reach their own trip reduction and congestion relief goals. 

And (of course) compliance is mandatory. 


"Those cities that show a negative balance (reflecting a lack of regional mitigation strategies such as transit-based development) will be deemed to be out of compliance with the CMP and subject to the loss of their share of State gas tax funds."

WHAT IS THE COUNTYWIDE DEFICIENCY PLAN? 

It's the newest and most comprehensive element in the 1993 Congestion Management Program (CMP). The final version is expected to be adopted by the MTA Board in November. The CDP is MTA's latest and most innovative strategy aimed at reducing congestion on Los Angeles County highways and major arterials by linking automobile use and congestion to development activity. 

HOW DOES IT WORK? 

The CDP sets up a system of development-based debits and mitigation credits. Each city has until May 1994 to compile a "bank" of credits from regional transportation mitigations that have been implemented in or sponsored by that jurisdiction since 19990. In anticipation of utilizing this credit bank, each city, by June 1994, must begin tracking local development to identify a debit total (i.e. annual mitigation goal). By September 1995, each city is required to file its first annual Deficiency Plan Report with the MTA. This report will include the comprehensive list of mitigations (i.e., credits) which will serve to offset the development-based debits from projects generated within that jurisdiction’s boundaries. 

Ultimately, each city will need to maintain a positive balance of CMP debits relative to credits. Those cities that show a negative balance (reflecting a lack of regional mitigation strategies such as transit-based development) will be deemed to be out of compliance with the CMP and subject to the loss of their share of State gas tax funds. 

USING THE CDP TOOLBOX 

The CMP contains a "Toolbox of Strategies" that provide a wide range of choices from which a city may create its own mitigation programs. The toolbox incorporates a scoring system which allocates value to identified strategies that have a proven track record for low trip generation or decreasing congestion. The broad categories under which these strategies fall include land use, transportation, demand management and capital improvements. Each category contains specific types of projects with an assigned level of credits. To the extent a jurisdiction implements a qualified program, it accrues credit based on the assigned value for the implemented strategy. Further, partial credit is also granted for reaching certain milestones. For example, passage of a zoning code amendment that would encourage low trip-generating development (e.g., mixed-use residential and commercial development within 1/4 mile of a transit center) would receive partial CDP credit prior to any actual development. 

To encourage ongoing creativity and flexibility, cities are welcome to bring new strategies to the MTA staff that are not presently included in the toolbox. The MTA staff will evaluate these proposed strategies and assign point values on a case-by-case basis. This flexibility allows for cities and the real estate/transportation community to search out and create strategics that are tailored to the economic conditions and physical characteristics of each site and/or city. 

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THINK REGIONALLY, ACT LOCALLY 

The CDP gives incentives to cities that have geographic and arterial relationships to resolve joint congestion problems. It also encourages developers proposing large projects which will generate trips across city borders to seek multi-jurisdictional cooperation for project-specific mitigations. Accordingly, the CDP allows credit for multi-jurisdictional capital improvement projects and Transportation Demand Management programs. Each city is granted credits in proportion to its monetary contribution to the project or strategy. 

COUNTYWIDE DEFICIENCY PLAN IMPLEMENTATION 

An effective Deficiency Plan will include strategies that enable a city to apply for county and state transportation and capital improvement funding, as well as encouraging the private sector to develop projects that are low trip generators. Projects identified in the CDP are eligible for inclusion in long term local and regional funding programs, such as the Regional and State Transportation Improvement Programs (RTIP and STIP). Since the CDP toolbox was modeled after the AQMD list of transportation control measures, the CDP will further support City and County compliance with the County’s long-term air quality improvement programs as mandated by the SCAQMD. Air quality compliance is also a priority in funding considerations for RTIP and STIP eligible projects. 

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? 

Each city must establish a comprehensive system for tracking local development activity. But mere tracking is not sufficient to implement the CDP. In order for the Deficiency Plan to work well for local governments and developers alike, it will be important for the private and public seem to collaborate on a long-term mitigation strategy that is sensitive to local economic conditions and private investment requirements. This effort may accelerate behavioral programs such as elimination of employer paid parking and reduction in suburban parking ratios for commercial projects. In any case, this collaboration must ensure future compliance with the CMP by applying the tools in the CDP to create programs which leverage public and private investment and yield the greatest level of local and countywide congestion relief. 

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