Public Agency Mea Culpas are Rarer than a Blue Diamond

But now and then society is blessed with an exception. Here are some long awaited acknowledgments from Caltrans. They come to us from Caltrans’ young and energetic Caltrans’ Planning and Modal Programs Group (P&MP)

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Here’s what P&MP had to say in its recently released P&MP Strategic Plan 2021 – 2024:

“However, Caltrans’ focus on increasing vehicle movement through highway investments over many years has contributed to a dependence on automobiles, providing access to land at the edges of urbanized areas and supporting development patterns that have made walking, cycling and transit use inefficient and challenging in many parts of the state. Highway investments have also contributed to the displacement and division of some neighborhoods, predominately in communities of color. Further, adding lanes has not resulted in long-term congestion relief and in some cases has worsened congestion, particularly in urbanized and fast-growing regions due to induced demand.”

“Therefore, M&MP is updating its goals and strategies to focus on maximizing use of the existing system to improve accessibility for people and goods to reach their destinations through innovative solutions and alternatives to adding lanes that increase single occupant vehicle use. We must understand and articulate clearly how the objectives of today differ from the objectives of yesterday, and urgently address the increasing impact of global climate change. M&MP must shift its work in concert with the demands of a changing world to enable people to drive less, thereby improving public health associated with lower pollutant exposure as well as more active lifestyles, while reducing serious injuries and fatalities, resource consumption, and demands on both Caltrans and household budgets.”

Anyone who has been paying attention has known about these problems for years if not decades. However few people of influence have been willing to speak out on the subject, either because of an unwillingness to admit error or a fear of deviating from the status quo based upon policies set down from on high over a half century ago.

And yet here’s a Caltrans group that has defined things as they are and who seems bent on following through. However, getting from this important acknowledgement to the changes needed to actually bring down vehicle miles traveled, reduce GHG emissions and ease congestion is definitely an uphill slog that will require great determination, persistence and leadership. Will a belated realization of a very old problem of long standing lead to corrective action? We’re not holding our breath. But when it comes to these needed changes, BATWG is all in.

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