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Big Wonky Good News: L.A. City Adopts People-Centered Transportation Metric: “VMT” In, “LOS” Out
This article summarizes the history of how Level of Service (LOS) became tied to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the motivations for the current shift away from LOS toward Vehicles Miles Traveled (VMT) as an environmental review point for new construction projects.
LOS wasn’t originally part of the CEQA when it was passed in 1970. Over time, courts tied LOS to CEQA, which meant that California environmental analysis yielded pro-car results. LOS shows that widening freeways is good for the environment, while bikeways and bus lanes, where they take space from cars, are bad for the environment.
Measuring environmental impacts under VMT more accurately shows that projects in denser urban areas have less adverse environmental impacts than projects in less dense suburban areas.
Instead of LOS car-oriented mitigation, VMT mitigation is based on TDM, or transportation demand management, principles – strategies that can help reduce driving. In the city’s calculator these include: reduced parking, unbundled parking (paid for as a separate expense from rent, for example), transit subsidies, vanpools and rideshare programs, car-share, bike-share, bike facilities, traffic-calming, and walkability improvements.
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