Friday, August 21, 2009

SBCAG urged to address sustainability in transportation plan

MORGAN HOOVER, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT

August 21, 2009 7:24 AM

Local environmental advocates on Thursday encouraged county officials to make further improvements to the sustainability of transportation in Santa Barbara.

The Santa Barbara County Association of Governments received a presentation and public feedback at the County Administration building of the new draft amendment to the Regional Transportation Plan's Environmental Impact Report of 2008.

A Santa Barbara County Superior Court judge ruled in June that SBCAG's certification of an associated program EIR was vacated, as it was "deficient with respect to energy setting, energy impacts analysis, and, to a limited extent, induced travel."

Aubrey Spilde presented the association with the draft EIR amendment, on which the public can comment on paper until Sept.. 4.

The amendment includes three key sections, including an "Induced Travel" section, which consists "of a new discussion of the potential for impacts related to induced travel;" an "Energy" section, which includes "additional description and quantification of current countywide energy use, supplementary regulatory setting and quantification of impacts and a "References and Preparers" section.

Public comment at the meeting produced statements that the association should continue improving the amendment.

K.K. Holland, the project coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable and Equitable Regional Transportation, said the association should look at supporting the addition of a coastal rail line as a means of sustainable transportation.

"The (Regional Transportation Plan) really needs to do a better job of taking sustainability seriously," she said.

The Community Environmental Council was also represented during public comment by Michael Chiacos and Dave Davis.

"Transportation provides the impetus for over 50 percent of the greenhouse gases in Santa Barbara," said Mr. Davis, who said that he wants the plan to be made more "adaptable" for the future. "What we are looking at is a plan that does pretty good for today's conditions."

Mr. Chiacos agreed, saying the amendment is improved but still "uses old data and ignores recent trends."

"I ask that you take a look ahead," he said. "Alternative transportation allows us to use our current infrastructure more efficiently."

Mr. Chiacos called affordable transportation "a moral imperative," and said the "local data is surprisingly incomplete" in the amendment.

The association's staff will bring the amendment back at next month's meeting after addressing the responses from both the public and association members.

To view the full amendment and submit comment, go to sbcag.org.

e-mail: mhoover@newspress.com

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