Report: Sustainable Transportation Proposals Face Costly, ‘Time-Consuming’ Environmental Studies

In another blow to California’s Environmental Quality Act, a new analysis shows that many green transportation projects are delayed or halted by an expensive, onerous review process and the threat of lawsuits.

2 minute read

April 14, 2022, 9:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

A group of cyclists rides on a green painted bike line on the Embarcadero in Sa Francisco.

New bike lanes like this one in San Francisco, California, could be held up by CEQA review, despite their obvious benefits. | AsiaTravel / Shutterstock

A report from planning think tank SPUR found that dozens of sustainable transportation projects in California face years of “costly, time-consuming analysis and lawsuits on the basis that they are bad for the environment” thanks to the state’s Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), report Jeff Elder and Adam Shanks. The law, intended to require developers and agencies to disclose potential environmental effects of proposed projects, is “facing growing criticism for enabling lawsuits unrelated to the environment, like the one that nearly caused UC Berkeley to rescind thousands of undergraduate applications earlier this year.”

The SPUR report assesses the impact of a 2020 bill, SB 288, that temporarily exempted certain green transportation projects from CEQA, preventing head-scratchers like San Francisco’s four-year pause on bike lane installation as it navigated environmental lawsuits. With SB 288 set to expire at the end of this year, transit agencies across the state are worried they’ll once again be subject to such lawsuits.

A new bill proposed by Senator Scott Wiener would extend SB 288 and continue to exempt light rail, bus, pedestrian, and bike projects until 2030. “The SPUR report identifies 15 projects that benefited from SB 288, seven of which were in San Francisco. They include the transit-only lanes on Seventh and Eighth streets in SoMa, the Evans and Williams bike lanes in the Bayview and the “road diet” to improve safety on South Van Ness Avenue.”

\According to Wiener, even though just 1 percent of projects face CEQA lawsuits, “the constant fear and threat of lawsuits triggers more and more expensive and time-consuming CEQA processes so that it takes much longer and is more expensive than it would have been otherwise.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2022 in San Francisco Examiner

Black and white Rideshare Pick-Up Zone sign

The Slow Death of Ride Sharing

From the beginning, TNCs like Lyft and Uber touted shared rides as their key product. Now, Lyft is ending the practice.

June 1, 2023 - Human Transit

Urban sidewalk shaded by large mature trees

Cool Walkability Planning

Shadeways (covered sidewalks) and pedways (enclosed, climate controlled walkways) can provide comfortable walkability in hot climates. The Cool Walkshed Index can help plan these facilities.

June 1, 2023 - Todd Litman

Interstate 55 with cars and green freeway signs in Chicago, Illinois

Illinois Legislators Pass Controversial I-55 Road Expansion Legislation

Legislation to enable the addition of express toll lanes on Interstate 55 in the Southwest Side of Chicago, opposed by environmental justice advocates, cleared the Illinois General Assembly last month.

June 7, 2023 - Chicago Tribune

Graphic of Maggi Adamek superimposed over green field and image of hands holding tabletfor The Planning Commission Podcast

Do You Want Fries With That? Exploring the Intricacies of Food Systems Planning

Food systems expert Maggi Adamek talks with The Planning Commission Podcast about the complexities of food policy, from local zoning ordinances to international trade agreements.

14 minutes ago - The Planning Commission Podcast

Two blue and white tents on a paved bike trail under an overpass in San Diego, California with palm tree and vegetation on one side

How San Diego Camping Ban Could Impact Neighborhoods

An ordinance supported by the city’s mayor would bar people from sleeping on the street near shelters or services, but critics say it will simply push people to other neighborhoods and put them farther away from the supportive services they need.

June 8 - Voice of San Diego

Small white one-story building with Maggie Hathaway Golf Course sign with American flag on flagpole and green lawn

Expanding Access to Golf in South Los Angeles

L.A. County’s Maggie Hathaway Golf Course getting up to $15 Million from U.S. Open Community Legacy Project to expand access to the sport in South L.A.

June 8 - Los Angeles Times

Principal Planner – Advanced Plans

Wichita-Sedgwick County Metropolitan Area Planning Department

Planning Officer

City of Bangor

Planning Director

Park City Municipal Corporation

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.