DATE: November 20,1996

TO: MTC Advisory Council

FROM: Deputy Executive Director

W.L: 30.5.10


RE: MTC's Authority Regarding Transportation and Land Use


At the joint meeting of the Advisory Council and Commission on September 25, 1996 Russell Hancock of the Bay Area Council raised the question of whether MTC was using or could use its existing authority to affect land use.

To address this question, at least three related questions need to be looked at:



What are MTC authorities?

MTC's authorities and responsibilities are set forth by state and federal laws and regulations. State statute (Government Code ("G..C.") § 66500 et seq.) created MTC in 1971 to provide "comprehensive regional transportation planning" for the ninÿe county Bay Area. A primary function of MTC is to prepare a regional transportation plan (G.C. § 66508). The regional transportation plan shall consider, among other factors, the "ecological, economic, and social impact of existing and future regional transportation systems upon various facets of the region, including but not limited to, housing, employment, recreation, environment, land-use policies, and the economically disadvantaged." Further, the plan shall consider the "regional plans prepared and adopted by organizations concerned with policies and programs designed to meet the near- and long-term planning needs of the region ... (including) plans prepared arid adopted by the Association of Bay Area Governments, the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, and the State Office of Planning." (G.C. § 66509.)

The regional transportation plan (RTP) provides the basis for transportation investment decisions in the region. The Commission enforces theÍ plan by its authority to review funding applications for transportation projects. "Any application to the federal or state government" containing a transportation element shall be approved and forwarded by the Commission only if it is compatible with the plan (G.C. § 66320). The only exception is if a project that is not consistent with the RTP is found by the California Transportation Commission to have an overriding statewide significance.

MTC's responsibility to ensure that transportation projects in the region are consistent with the plan is reinforced by federal transportation and clean air statutes and regulations. Further, Federal law (23 U.S.C. § 134 and 49 U.S.C. § 5303) requires MTC to develop a RTP that is fiscally constrained, that is, a plan that includes only those projects that can be financed with reasonably expected revenues. The 1990 Clean Air Act Amendments (CAAA - Public Law 101-549) require that the transportation plan conform to the region's air quality plan and that any project must come from this conforming transportation plan (42 U.S.C. § 7506).

In addition to its authority to approve applications for state and federal transportation dollars, MTC has been given authority to allocate and determine the priorities for the expenditure of specific fund sources. One important fund source that MTC allocates results from the Transportation Development Act (TDA - Public Utilities Code (PUC) § 99200 et seq.). These funds are from 1/4 cent of the sales tax and are used mostly for transit operations and, with special findings by the Commission, for streets and roads in counties of less than 500,000 population. These funds have a strong return-to-source provision. MTC also allocates certain bridge toll funds for transit improvements in the bridge corridors (Streets and Highways Code § 30880 et seq. and § 30910 et seq.) and a portion of the 1/2 cent sales tax in Alameda, Conta Costa and San Francisco Counti'es for transit (PUC § 2914 et seq.).

On the federal side, MTC sets priorities for federal transit capital and operating formula funds. More recently, under the federal Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA - Public Law 102-240) and companion state law (Chapter 1177, Statutes of 1992), MTC programs surface transportation funds and congestion mitigation and air quality funds. These funding sources have given MTC considerable flexibility in addressing the region's transportation needs.

Altogether, MTC currently approves or allocates approximately $2.5 billion a year for transportation projects and programs.


How does MTC apply its authority?

In accordance with MTC's statutory requirements, the RTP is dependent and builds on the projections, land-use polices and plans of others. The plan is consistent with the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) and local government land use recommenbdations including those prepared by county congestion management agencies). 1

The RTP includes projects that are intended to support the goals put forth in the RTP. These goals cover mobility, equity, environment and economic vitality. The plan also includes an explicit goal of maintaining community vitality. As a partial implementation of this goal, Ìthe Commission, in the plan, gives priority to maintaining and operating the existing transportation system. This statement by the Commission is a strong commitment to a land use policy that the region continues to support transportation investments to maintain the urban core.

MTC uses it allocation and priority setting to fund projects that support the RTP. Annually, MTC publishes a fund summary showing its proposed allocation of funds. The Commission also periodically prepares and adopts a list of projects and programs that will be funded over the next few (three to seven) years. These are included in a Regional Transportation Improvement Program (RTIP - G.C. § 65082) and in subsequent federal documents. In preparing these short range programs, MTC develops and uses specific criteria to score and rank projects. The criteria include community vitality factors that are being reviewed to determine if they can better reflect the Commission's newly adopted Transportation/Land Use Statement

U,nderpinning the plan are the projections of where people will live and work. ABAG develops these projections in consultation with local government. Thus, the plan represents the best information about existing and projected land uses in the region. The projections are a major factor in how investments are evaluated, particularly with regard to air quality.

It has been suggested that MTC deviate from these projections and base the plan on a major shift (more desirous from a particular advocacy position) in where people live and work. There are at least three problems with this approach: first, the federal air quality conformity process of the CAAA of 1990 does not allow it because it would permit urban areas to dodge conformity requirements by misrepresenting true growth patterns; second, it raises the question of who is delegated to decide the alternative scheme; and third, it is illogical to ignore the reality of where growth is occurring unless the authority exists to change it.

We have undertaken several "what if" analyses outside the requirements of the RTP. The Santa Clara corridor study in 1979 included an analysis of the impacts of converting "excess" industrial/commercial zoning in the northern part of the county to housing. The analysis showed a positive impact on congestion and, in fact, has been pursued by some cities. In 1990, MTC and ABAG looked at the potential for linking housing sites more closely to existing and proposed rail stations. This analysis made assumptions about adding housing growth to currently zoned commercial/industrial, excess property in selected transit corridors at densities consistent with existing densities. Encouragement of housing accessible to transit is generally agreed upon as a good land use strategy and the analysis showed positive impacts. Another analysis was done at the request of the Regional Alliance for Transit (RAFT) based on a more pronounced relocation of growth developed by RAFT. RAFT subseq¦uently requested that the Commission adopt its plan as the regional plan which, for the reasons noted earlier, the Commission could not do.

While such analyses cannot legally be used for RTP purposes they may inform public discussions on land use. For the most part, they lead to rather obvious conclusions: if you can build more housing closer to jobs (or vice versa) some commutes will be shorter; and more houses near transit, more people will use transit. However, these analyses are not particularly useful for evaluating investment decisions unless there is a policy mechanism, as noted earlier, to enforce the new land use assumptions.

MTC also undertakes specific corridor studies that provide information to better inform the plan. MTC, in these cases, works with local government and transportation providers to reach consensus on both transportation and its relationship to the land use issues in the corridor. For example, MTC is currently partnering with BCDC and ABAG for the þNorth Bay Corridor Study with the intent to improve transportation while supporting the land use requirements reflected in the unique ecology and recreational aspects of this area of the region.

Others have suggested that the Commission should do more than encourage, that it should use its authority - primarily its allocation authority - to leverage "desired" land uses. There is no question that MTC has considerable allocation and priority setting authority; but, while leveraging this authority seems easy in the abstract, in reality it is very difficult.

The first obstacle is substantial - MTC has not been delegated the role of land use arbitrator. This function is the most tightly held and cherished role of local government. All efforts for expanded regional government have gone on the shoals over this issue. Even assuming that the Commission could overcome this hurdle and achieve consensus of some desired land use outcomes, there are impediments.

One of the most difficult' is finding a reasonable nexus between the allocation action and the desired outcome. For example, the Commission would like to see higher levels of housing and economic activity in the vicinity of rail facilities and there may be some limited opportunities to do this with new rail lines or stations. However, usually the project sponsor seeking funding is not the agency responsible for zoning policies. Further, if the rail extension was regionally desirable, it might not be in the region's interest to withhold support because a particular community did not choose to make the "appropriate" zoning changes. A similar situation exists with existing rail lines. Communities with stations aren't often the ones requesting allocations for projects. Nor would withholding funds to other transportation services in that community seem to be a particularly good strategy. For example, there is a poor nexus between funds for BART (or CalTrain) rehabilitation and the zoning of any o"f the communities through which it passes. Likewise, should the Commission withhold traffic improvements that have a regional benefit because the community in which the improvement was located did not meet a land use standard?

There will be times and places and support for some leverage, or negotiation, to occur. However, these are likely to be project specific and related to some local land use initiative. In these cases, the Commission would be working with a community to insure a better connection between the proposed project and the community's objective.


How else could MTC use its authority to influence lard use?

The opportunity for transportation investments to alter the projected demographics of the region are limited - limited by the extensive transportation system already in place, by the relatively small incremental investments over the next 20 years and by a number of return to source constraints that are imbedded in existing law on where these investments can be maÁde.

It is also limited by the general agreement on where growth should or should not occur as reflected by general plans and other restrictions on where, how much and how fast growth should occur and by the lifestyle and economic choices of people. These choices often result in growth occurring absent or well ahead of any major transportation investnent. In these cases growth is pushing transportation, rather than the other way around.

One proposal - the Mid-State Tollway - that might have had some impact on growth, either its shape or rate, in the eastern part of the region came before the Commission in 1993. It is an example of how the Commission used its authority for approval of the RTP to require the development of a land use plan consistent with the proposed project. This controversial project was a proposed 25-mile toil road from I-680 in the vicinity of Pleasanton to I-80 in the vicinity of Vacaville. A franchise to develop this route was granted to the California Toll Road CÑompany by the State. The project was not in the RTP nor was it consistent with any other local land use plans in the region.

Following a lengthy public outreach, the Commission developed several conditions to be met if the road was to be included in the RTP. These included the requirement that the toll road company relinquish the portion of the road in Solano County because of the environmental sensitivity of the route in the county and, perhaps most important that the toll road company and the local jurisdictions on the remaining portion of the route develop enforceable plans for growth management and open space. Because of strong local opposition to the road, the toil road company has not proceeded with the project.

Because, from a macro sense, opportunities to shape the general growth pattern of the region are limited, the Commission is focusing on encouraging a better connection ofj transportation and land use at the community level consistent with the recent adoption of its policy statement on The Transportation/Land Use Connection. The Commission's support for project funding of the Fruitvale Transit Village, the inclusion of community vitality scoring criteria in our priority setting and the publication of a reference guide for community-oriented transportation are all efforts in that direction.

The key to our approach is to encourage projects or activities that will further the Commission's transportation/land use objectives by working with local government and our transportation partners. We recognize that we have a way to go in implementing this approach. The approach needs to be refined, strengthened and more firmly integrated into the Commission's way of doing business.

As stated in the preface of the Commission's statement on The Transportation/Land Use Connection "MTC recognizes and respects the fact that land use and community development decisions in the Bay Area are the result of approximately 100 locally elected councils and boards reconciling economic and environmental forces with the concerns and aspirations of its citizens." Working with this diversity and encouraging projects that advance the Commission's

policies as set forth in this statement is a major challenge for the Commission and its staff. No one agency, no one community of interest working by itself can have a major influence on land use. Only by building partnerships and seizing opportunities as they occur can transportation investments make a positive contribution to community vitality.

We welcome the assistance of the Advisory ÛCouncil in pursuing this challenging task, as outlined in the Commission's statement.


S/ William F. Hein




1 Until next year, every county with an urban area over 50,000 must develop a "congestion management program" (CMP) (G.C. 65088 et seq.) in order to be eligible for state funding and qualify for subvention funds. The CMP is to include a "program to analyze the impacts of land use decisions made by local jurisdictions on regional transportation systems..." MTC must evaluate the consistency between CMP and die RTP. Recent law (Chapter 1154, Statutes of 1996) allows counties to opt out of this requirement In addition, counties have the option to prepare county transportation plans (G.C. § 66531) that become the "primary basis" for MTC's RTP.