Let’s hear it for the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for adopting regional targets to reduce air pollution from cars and light trucks! This is the first major milestone in implementing California’s pioneering Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection act (or Senate Bill 375) which was passed in 2008. If community planning seems like an abstract way to deal with climate change, consider the fact that up to 50% of greenhouse gas emissions in California cities come from driving.

Think of what life would be like if our cities and towns were planned so that we could all walk or bike to school, work, or the grocery store? What if crossing the bay meant hopping on quick and reliable transit instead of sitting in traffic on the Bay Bridge? What if a trip to Sacramento was an accessible and conveniently scheduled train ride through the scenic delta foothills? I think our habits would change, even in what is one of the most car-cultured states in this car-driven nation.

If climate change seems like an abstract effect of the way our communities and regions are planned, then the effects on our lifestyle and health are more concrete. Since the average American has spent the equivalent of 1 year in the car by the age of 25, think of what the same amount of time walking or biking might do to levels of diabetes and childhood obesity. It’s time to look beyond the freeway as we accommodate our growing state.

Just listen to Steve Heminger, Executive Director of the Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission, quoted in this article from the Natural Resources Defense Council’s staff blog “Switchboard”.

“Twenty years ago, you had three choices for spending federal transportation dollars: you could build an interstate, or you could build an interstate or you could build an interstate.” Under SB 375, regions will do more to create viable transportation choices for Californians. This means investing in transit so that it is convenient, affordable, and reliable. It means creating communities where walking and bicycling are safe and practical

…CARB Boardmember and Mayor of Riverside Ron Loveridge commented on what may be one of the most significant impacts of law to date: “The 21st Century is a century of regions. SB 375 is the first time in my political lifetime that we’ve had a serious regional conversation about urban form.”