(Document for the meeting of PTAC on Monday August 19, 2002, at 1:30 p.m. in the L. D. Dahms Auditorium at the Joseph P. Bort MetroCenter.)

Metropolitan Transportation Commission
Memorandum to Partnership Technical Advisory Committee

TO: Partnership Technical Advisory Committee
FR: Alix Bockelman
RE: Update on Recent Actions Concerning Air Quality

This memorandum provides information on the stay issued against the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) approval of the mobile source emissions budget as well as on the District Court's recent decision that MTC must fulfill its obligation under Transportation Control Measure 2.

Lawsuits Against EPA

There are two suits pending against EPA: one by the Sacramento Metropolitan
Air Quality Management District, Yolo-Solano Air Quality Management District; and the other by Transportation Solutions Defense and Education Fund, Our Children's Earth Foundation, and Communities for a Better Environment (collectively referred to as "petitioners"). The suits have been consolidated are being heard together.

The lawsuits challenge EPA's finding earlier this year that the mobile source emissions budget ("budget") in the 2001 Ozone Attainment Plan is adequate. MTC uses the budget to determine whether the projects in our Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and Transportation Improvement Program (TIP), taken collectively, "conform" to federal air quality standards.

MTC is not a party to this litigation.

The following is a timeline of events and impacts on the TIP adoption:

July 10: MTC's Programming and Allocations Committee referred the 2003 TIP to the Commission for approval, with a finding that the TIP "conforms" for federal air quality purposes.

July 23: The Court issued a temporary stay of EPA's finding of the adequacy of the 2001 Ozone Attainment Plan's mobile sources emission budget. That means MTC did not have an approved budget on which to conform the TIP.

July 24: This was the date MTC would have approved the TIP. The TIP was
taken off calendar and rescheduled for approval in September.

July 26: The Court extended the stay, pending a hearing upon the merits.

August 9: Petitioners need to file their final briefs.

August 22: EPA needs to file its final brief.

Sept. 18: This is the rescheduled date for MTC to approve the 2003 TIP. Because of the stay in the EPA litigation, we will not be able to do so.

Oct. 6: The current TIP expires on this date. The 9-county Bay Area will not be able to receive federal funds for its transportation projects, both transit and highways, until a new TIP is approved.

Oct. 7: The court is scheduled to hear the merits of the case.

Oct.-Nov.: Given the expedited briefing and hearing schedule, everyone hopes the Court will issue a decision quickly after the hearing.

Nov. 27: If there is a decision by early November, and if it is in EPA's favor, MTC will approve the TIP at its next regular meeting.

Nov.-Dec.: If the decision from the Court is against EPA, then EPA must decide what it will do. Its options range from appealing the adverse decision to referring the 2001 Ozone Attainment Plan back to the Bay Area for revision.

An appeal by EPA could be filed with either the full Ninth Circuit (an "en banc" hearing request) or the U.S. Supreme Court ("petition for certiorari").

There are 72 projects, 16 transit, 43 highway, and 13 local road projects, all of which are likely to be stalled indefinitely if EPA fails to prevail. We are in the process of working with FHWA and FTA on ways to try and move the rest of the projects, via an "interim" TIP. This would require a separate action by the Commission that would likely not happen until
November, at the earliest.

Transportation Control Measure 2 Ruling

A 1982 air quality plan required MTC to reduce emissions by improving the productivity of Bay Area transit systems. The emission reduction calculations assumed transit ridership could be increased 15% as a result of these productivity improvements, leading to emission reductions of about one ton per day. These reductions equate to a 0.4% reduction in vehicle emissions and an even smaller (0.1%) reduction in total emissions from all sources.

MTC adopted additional control strategies in 1990 to account for the emission reductions

needed when the increase in transit ridership did not reach the 15% level by 1987. With this adoption of new measures, MTC believed its air quality obligations were fulfilled. However, a decision from the federal District Court in July 2002 held that MTC had an obligation beyond the air quality plan to actually achieve a ridership increase of 15% and that it is MTC's responsibility alone to ensure that enough people use transit to accomplish
this goal by November 2006.

MTC plans to appeal this decision since it is impossible to guarantee transit ridership increases by a certain date. Factors such as personal choice, the state of the economy, suburbanization, and cheap gasoline have much more influence on transit use and market share than MTC's spending decisions.

In fact, transit trends in the Bay Area are quite similar to national transit trends (see Figure 5). [omitted]

But these trends have not deterred MTC from making a strong and continuing
regional investment in transit, which is evidenced by three different measures: size
of the transit fleet, growth in revenue hours of service, and growth in the
size of transit operating budgets (see Figure 6). As shown below, all three
of these measures have grown faster than actual transit ridership. [figure
omitted--same as a_q.html]

What more MTC will do for public transportation is reflected in the latest Regional Transportation Plan. Some 77% of all transportation funding over the next 25 years will be spent on public transportation. In fact, MTC expends a larger percentage of transportation dollars on public transportation than any other large metropolitan area in the nation (see Figure 7). This share is particularly generous when compared to the 6% of daily trips that are
actually made on transit. [figure omitted]

These facts stand in stark contrast to some of the criticisms by transit and environmental advocacy groups that MTC is funding too many highway projects. Highway lane additions amount to only a 5% increase over existing road miles and comprise only 4 % of MTC's 25-year budget, ranking MTC dead last among major metropolitan areas in spending on road capacity.

More information on air quality may be found at MTC's website: