After a yearlong effort by the Governor's Office of Planning and Research (OPR), and legislation passed last year, California has shifted from measuring LOS to VMT. According to Damien Newton and Melanie Curry of Streetsblog, this shift represents the changing priorities of California to encourage projects that meet environmental, multi-modal transportation, and infill development goals.
Previously, LOS required time and money to conduct expensive traffic analysis studies, and subsequent mitigation measures. These factors limited the capabilities and effectiveness of projects aiming to reduce car dependency. As opposed to LOS, VMT is, "easier and faster to estimate, and produces a measure of a project’s effect on overall travel, rather than just focusing on delay caused to cars at certain intersections." With this change in policy, "projects that are shown to decrease vehicle miles traveled–for example, bike lanes or pedestrian paths, or a grocery store that allows local residents to travel shorter distances to shop–may be automatically considered to have a 'less than significant' impact under CEQA."
Further revisions may need to be created as the proposed guidance still awaits the formal rulemaking process. OPR welcomes public comments on the draft. Send them by 5 pm, October 10, to: CEQA.email@example.com.