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SCAG Regional Transportation Improvement Plan and Transit to Trails

The City Project urges the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) to address and remedy the inequity of park access in the Regional Transportation Implementation Plan (RTIP).

We commend SCAG for directly addressing the need to improve access to park space for all, particularly low income communities, in the 2008 Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) Environmental Justice Report. We emphatically agree with SCAG’s analyses: “Public parks serve all residents. . . . However, not all neighborhoods and people have equal access to these public resources,” including local, state, and national parks. “[A] multi-agency effort must be undertaken in order to further address and remedy the issue of inequity of park access.” SCAG notes the lack of transit to national and state parks. “Research has found a complete lack of public transportation services into National Parks, but this also appears true for State Parks. There is almost no access to national parks and very limited access to state parks by transit across all income groups . . . .” SCAG RTP Environmental Justice Report 11-14, 20 (2008). Access to parks is inequitable, particularly for low income neighborhoods in the Southern California counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, San Bernardino, Riverside, Imperial, and San Diego. The following map based on the SCAG Environmental Justice Report illustrates these disparities.

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Four of the six SCAG counties are among the eight neediest counties in the state with the greatest need for green space – in combined terms of the fewest acres of green space per thousand residents, and highest levels of child obesity, youth, poverty, and people of color. These facts are illustrated and analyzed in the attached Map 1. The Map is from the Policy Report by Robert García and Aubrey White, Healthy Parks, Schools and Counties: Mapping Green Access and Equity for California at pages 3-6, Map 1, and Tables 9A-9F. The Report with complete maps and charts is available online at www.cityprojectca.org/blog/archives/362.

One remedy that the RTIP should include is a “Transit to Trails” program to take people to parks, mountains, beaches, forests, lakes, and other public natural spaces. Transit to Trails would serve all the people of the region, but would be particularly useful to the working poor with limited or no access to cars, who are disproportionately low income and people of color. Transit to Trails would provide an affordable avenue to green space, particularly now in an era of skyrocketing gasoline prices. Transit to Trails would help reduce traffic congestion and parking problems, improve air quality, and reduce polluted water run-off into rivers and the ocean. Transit to Trails would help reduce dependency on the automobile and fossil fuels. As SCAG has emphasized, there is no good way to reach the four Southern California forests using public transportation. Transit to beaches is limited, time-consuming, and expensive. Low cost transit service should link inner city communities, great urban parks, and outlying green space in national and state parks and forests.

The Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority, Anahuak Youth Association, and The City Project have implemented a Transit to Trails program that can serve as a best practice example for the SCAG RTIP. Learn more about Transit to Trails.

Download The City Project’s Public Comments on the SCAG RTIP.