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Driving Change: Reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled in California

PPIC Report

Senate Bill (SB) 375, adopted in 2008, calls on regional transportation planning agencies and local governments to develop strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from passenger vehicles by reducing per capita vehicle miles traveled (VMT). Three specific strategies, traditionally used to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality, are to be employed to help reduce emissions: Higher-density development, particularly in areas well-served by transit; Investments in alternatives to solo driving, such as transit, biking, walking, and carpooling; and Pricing policies that raise the cost of driving and parking. Although SB 375 is expected to reduce emissions only modestly relative to vehicle efficiency standards and low-carbon fuels, it is also expected to improve public health and reduce energy and water use by encouraging denser development and more “livable” communities. The integration of these three approaches is consistent with an emerging research consensus that policies integrating all three strategies have a much greater chance of reducing VMT than any one approach on its own. This report reviews the opportunities and challenges of each of these strategies and assesses California’s recent experience and future prospects for successfully integrating them.
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