Repurposing Level of Service-Based Fee Structures for Vehicle Miles Travel Reduction

This project responds to a Caltrans research need for a white paper “that identifies some common level of service (LOS)-based fee structures and analyzes ways that the same structure can be applied to a vehicle miles travel (VMT) reduction program while still meeting the intended congestion reduction goals.” This Caltrans research need responds to the passage of Senate Bill (SB) 743 in 2013, which marked a historic shift in how the transportation impacts of development projects are evaluated and mitigated (remediated) in California. To help achieve state climate and sustainability goals, SB 743 eliminated traffic delay, traditionally measured using LOS standards for roadways, as an environmental impact for consideration under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). State implementing guidelines for SB 743, adopted in 2018, instead recommend assessment of impacts of development projects and plans upon VMT.

This white paper will synthesize existing evidence and identify research gaps for the defined policy question. The research process include a review of literature on CEQA, LOS, impact fees, and other pertinent topics. Additionally, the project scope will include an on-line survey and interview protocol and procedure, based on a set of defined research questions, for determining how California cities aim to integrate VMT- and LOS-related metrics in their conditions for development approval and/or impact fee structures. Then, based on the survey findings, a sample of cities will be identified for more intensive research that intend to revise their impact fees pursuant to SB 743, including cities that intend to combine LOS and VMT analysis as part of applying conditions of development approval and to alter their development impact fee structure in response to SB 743 to include both LOS and VMT. This more intensive research, to consist of public document review and interviews with city planners in the identified sample of cities, will result in development of case studies for the final white paper.

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