VTA spending plan should focus on cutting carbon as well as commute times

New report shows that, without changes, proposed tax measure could fail to advance climate goals


CONTACT: Christopher Lepe, [email protected] or   408-425-4430

SAN JOSE – Tomorrow night, the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) plans to vote on a spending plan for a $6 billion transportation funding measure.  But a new analysis by TransForm shows that, without changes, the current proposal would do little to advance critical climate goals, with road projects nearly canceling out the benefits gained from transit and bicycle improvement projects.

In the new report Cutting Carbon As Well As Commutes: How we can maximize the benefits of Santa Clara County’s 2016 transportation measure, TransForm used VTA’s data to analyze the proposed measure, which is likely to be the single largest new transportation funding the county will see for a generation.

As such, it’s essential that the proposal maximize benefits per dollar spent. After reviewing the benefits on a per-dollar basis, TransForm found that spending on the BART Phase II extension, light rail, and walking and biking improvements performed well, while expressway and highway projects will significantly increase driving, carbon pollution, and air pollution. 

“As currently proposed, this measure will be a missed opportunity to improve mobility while tackling the climate crisis and improving air quality.,” said Chris Lepe, Silicon Valley Senior Community Planner for TransForm.

An alternative funding scenario developed by TransForm, with more funding for local transit and active transportation projects, performed far better than VTA’s draft funding proposal, including over 90 times the VMT reduction benefits and four times the CO2 reduction benefits.

The report concludes with three recommendations that VTA could implement to change the measure and thereby win both greater success for mobility, climate, and health, and support from TransForm.

“We urge VTA to ensure the spending plan maximizes our taxpayer resources to promote health, safety, equity, access, and climate protection,” said Lepe.  “We need VTA to invest in a transportation system that keeps Silicon Valley moving in the right direction.”

Key Report Findings: Cutting Carbon As Well As Commutes

Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) Per Weekday (Per $100 Million in Spending)

Metric Tons of Carbon Pollution (CO2) Per Weekday (Per $100 Million in Spending)

Benefit Comparison for driving and emissions reductions

Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) Per Weekday

Metric Tons of Carbon Pollution (CO2) Per Weekday


Recommendations to achieve greater mobility, climate, and health benefits

  • Shift funding from highway and expressway programs to local transit, bicycle, and pedestrian projects and programs. This report shows why it is critical to boost funding levels for VTA’s core bus network in particular.
  • Include performance-based language in the funding measure so to ensure that projects funded by the highway and expressway programs not only reduce congestion but also reduce vehicle miles traveled (VMT). VMT reduction strategies can include provision of improved transportation options, operations that promote carpooling, congestion pricing, and supporting new, tech-enabled services that increase vehicle occupancy. This should include competitive grants instead of projects that are dictated now, to take advantage of the innovation in the transportation sector.
  • Give priority in the bicycle and pedestrian funding for projects that take place in Communities of Concern as well as those in proximity to schools.*

*The Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) defines Communities of Concern as communities in the Bay Area that face particular transportation challenges, either because of affordability, disability, or because of age-related mobility limitations.


TransForm is California's leading advocate for great transportation choices and walkable, affordable communities. TransForm has offices in Oakland, Sacramento, and San Jose. www.TransFormCA.org