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Climate Change Contacts

Pacific Southwest, Region 9

Serving: Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Pacific Islands, Tribal Nations

Climate Change in the Pacific Southwest
— Smart Growth and Planning

phoenix light rail
New light rail system in Phoenix, Arizona

The layout of a city or county and access to public transportation can hugely affect the carbon footprint and overall sustainability of the region. Infrastructure built today can last into the next century so it is crucial that as we build the world today we consider the carbon constrained world of tomorrow.

EPA Region 9 is a partner in a national initiative to develop Transit Sustainability Guidelines and case studies specifically targeting public transportation opportunities to maximize contributions to sustainable communities. The program, led by the Bay Area Rapid Transit DistrictExiting EPA (disclaimer) and supported by the American Public Transportation Association,Exiting EPA (disclaimer) involves 11 leading transit authorities from the U.S. and Canada. While public transportation already reduces greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging denser development and decreasing vehicle miles traveled, these guidelines will highlight best practices of transit agencies in the United States and Canada in areas ranging from planning and development of new transit lines to energy efficient operations and maintenance to increase transit’s contributions to environmental sustainability.

Under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), EPA reviews environmental impact statements that analyze the impacts of federal actions. EPA Region 9 has developed recommendations for implementing smart growth principles to include in our NEPA comment letters. We have provided smart growth recommendations for projects ranging from new housing developments to military base relocations.

Transportation and Land Use Planning in California

Since 2000, EPA Region 9 has partnered with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to promote “smart growth” practices throughout California, including developing the California Regional Blueprint Planning Program.Exiting EPA (disclaimer) Under this program, Caltrans provides grants to promote “smart growth” concepts in planning for future growth while minimizing sprawl.

Key goals of the California Regional Blueprint Planning Program include:

  • Improved mobility and reduced dependency on single-occupant vehicle trips
  • An adequate supply of housing for all income levels
  • Reduced impacts on valuable farmland, natural resources and air quality
  • Reduced greenhouse gas emissions
  • Increased water and energy conservation and efficiency
  • A prosperous economy and safe, healthy, sustainable and vibrant neighborhoods

The Smart Mobility FrameworkExiting EPA (disclaimer) is a tool that is being developed by Caltrans with support from EPA’s Smart Growth Office. Once developed, the tool will evaluate transportation options and assist with the implementation of multi-modal and sustainable transportation strategies in California.

California also passed the first Smart Growth legislation (SB 375) Exiting EPA (disclaimer) in the nation in 2008. The new law is aimed at curbing sprawl and reducing vehicle miles traveled in an effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions from California’s largest emissions sector—automobiles and light trucks. Each of the 17 metropolitan planning organizations in California will develop a “sustainable communities strategy ” which demonstrates how the region will meet greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets by reducing sprawl and vehicle miles traveled.

Smart Growth in Arizona

Phoenix, Mesa, and Valley Metro Rail are receiving assistance from EPA to develop a regional strategy that will encourage compact, mixed-use and transit-oriented development. A team of national experts, assembled by the Smart Growth Program at EPA, has developed options designed to promote transit-oriented development along Phoenix’s new light-rail line in ways that are also consistent with Arizona’s statewide private property rights act, Proposition 207.

If implemented, these options are expected to alleviate congestion on heavily traveled commuter corridors and help create more walkable, distinctive neighborhoods. Investment in development in conjunction with the rail line is expected to yield substantial environmental benefits by helping reduce the projected increase in air pollution as the area’s population grows. More info »

Additional Resources

Contact Carolyn Mulvihill

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