What the Candidates for Governor Say About Transportation and Land Use Issues

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Seven gubernatorial candidates were invited to share their views on transportation and land use by a team of advocates working on those issues. Led by TransForm, the team included MoveLA, Public Advocates, San Francisco Transit Riders, Friends of Caltrain, and Streetsblog California.

Five of the candidates—the Democrats in the race—responded to the invitation. Their full answers are available on the TransForm website here. The website also offers very brief, skimmable summaries of each candidate’s response to make it easy to compare their answers. In addition, below is a quick synopsis of the main points of each candidate’s responses. But the team recommends reading the complete answers to get a clear sense of where the candidates stand.

Several of the groups that worked on the survey, including Streetsblog, are 501(c)3 nonprofits, which means no candidate endorsements. The goal is get important candidate information to voters as they head to the polls in June—or today, with mail-in ballots already arriving.

The full candidate responses also show which candidates have a clear vision and understanding of transportation issues, and which ones either don’t know or don’t care and sidestepped the question. One of those must be true of both Republican candidates—John Cox and Travis Allen—who sidestepped the entire survey by not responding at all.

The candidates who did respond are: John Chiang, Delaine Eastin, Gavin Newsom, Amanda Rentería, and Antonio Villaraigosa.

The survey asked the candidates a range of questions about housing near transit, cap-and-trade investments, emerging technologies, and support for walking, biking, and transit. Not surprisingly, many of the answers were generally in alignment. For example, all of the candidates said they support the California High-Speed Rail program as well as the recently released State Rail Modernization Plan.

Below, a synopsis of the candidates’ main points:

JOHN CHIANG emphasizes his experience as State Treasurer and his financial knowledge, as well as his history of “acting with honesty and integrity to protect California taxpayers’ money and to fund critical investments in our state’s transportation infrastructure.”

Chiang calls for no new fossil-fuel cars to be sold in the state by 2035. He also proposes the use of green bonds to invest in transportation “that meets the needs of all our communities.” He pledged to find private investment for high-speed rail, and would use unspecified “carrots and sticks” to incentivize housing.

Chiang wants to end the fiscalization of land use—which gives cities incentives to encourage tax-producing commercial developments and discourage housing—and exclusionary zoning, and would bring back redevelopment to provide funding for housing.

DELAINE EASTIN proposes an “oil severance tax” on the extraction of oil in California, pointing out that the states of Texas, Alaska, Oklahoma and Georgia already have one. The revenue would be used to help shift the state away from reliance on fossil fuels and to pay for high-speed rail.

About cap-and-trade, she says: “Market solutions and technology haven’t saved us, and alternative energy has only made a dent; our behavior is key. An integrated approach to land-use and transportation must be done with urgency.” For Eastin, that would include changing Proposition 13 and shifting state policy to require land-use decisions to align with transportation rather than the other way around. She would emphasize “low-impact” transportation such as walking, biking, and transit over driving.

She also calls for the creation of a Climate Science Task Force “to identify the projects that will produce the most effective results for the money we spend.”

GAVIN NEWSOM touts his experience promoting transit improvements as mayor of San Francisco, which he says led to an 85 percent reduction in Muni collisions. “In discussions about transportation we can get carried away by the big mega projects,” he says, “but so often it’s making improvements on the little things—even using paint, bollards and signal-timing—that can have some of the most profound impact on people’s lives.”

His top priorities are bringing the transportation system into state of good repair, expanding public transit, particularly for disadvantaged communities, and preparing for new technological innovations by ensuring that they are both carbon neutral and safe. “We need to ensure that California retains the right to regulate autonomous vehicles, and that we aren’t forced to accept Washington’s laissez-faire approach,” he says. He sees an opportunity to create good jobs for those who may be displaced by automation. “We should ensure that as these technologies come to market, transit, walking and biking are always prioritized users on public roads,” he said.

He wants to increase the number of zero emission vehicles on the road by 2030, and sees clean technology as an opportunity to create jobs in California.

“I believe the state’s Active Transportation Program should be a larger piece of state funding,” he says. He would also commit California to a Vision Zero strategy to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries to zero.

He supports transit, and wants it to have dedicated lanes. He wants Caltrans to convert general purpose lanes to HOV lanes for express bus service on highways. He would also use state transportation funding as both carrot and stick to encourage communities to produce more housing, including near transit stations. He sees high-speed rail as the central spine of a “robust statewide and locally-serving rail network.” “I will put the same energy into ensuring the build out of the State Rail Plan that Governor Brown put into building out High-Speed Rail,” he says.

AMANDA RENTERIA favors banning sales of all gas-fueled cars by 2030. She promises to “aggressively implement” the California Statewide Bike and Pedestrian plan. She is also interested in creating employer-based congestion management programs.

She suggests breaking the state rail plan into “measurable and achievable phases that build upon each other” and can be more easily financed. She would also rely on federal funding to help complete high-speed rail.

Renteria also favors the recreation of redevelopment to increase housing in the state.

ANTONIO VILLARAIGOSA highlights his successes as mayor of L.A., including the “Green L.A. Climate Action Plan” and the passage of Measure R. The Climate Action Plan called for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 35 percent by 2030, and he says that during his tenure L.A. reduced overall GHG emissions by nearly thirty percent, cleaned up the port, and cut truck diesel emissions by ninety percent. Meanwhile Measure R, he says, doubled the size of L.A.’s rail network, created over 400,000 jobs, and created a “public transit landscape that stretches across L.A.”

“The best change in our transportation investment strategies is leadership that prioritizes getting us out of our cars,” he says. High-speed rail, for example, will not only create jobs but unite diverse parts of the state. He sees investments in infrastructure as a way to create jobs and help grow the middle class.

He promotes the incorporation of public health impacts “as part of all of our environmental, transportation and land use decision-making processes.”

“Reforms and policy updates often lag behind innovation because changes are hard to anticipate, and accurately accounting for the implications of any adjustments can be difficult,” he says. So he would work to make his administration more innovative itself. He mentions the L.A. Metro Office of Extraordinary Innovation as an inspiration.

If California can waive CEQA to streamline football stadiums, he says, “we should be able to modify it to build affordable housing, mass transit, or essential projects to grow our economy.” He would restore redevelopment to fund “workforce and affordable housing for teachers, nurses, firefighters, seniors, low-income families and the homeless.”

  • Kenny Easwaran

    HOV lanes in cities are a great idea. On the freeways for intercity bus doesn’t seem as relevant (unless there are a *lot* more intercity buses than I’m imagining).

  • Why is that? Any serious attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in California will have to include replacing millions of gasoline-powered vehicles with electric vehicles. Promoting alternatives to driving is good, but it won’t be enough.

  • Eric

    The focus on electric vehicles though is just… sad.

  • CharlesWilliamMorganJr

    The emphasis on rail by each candidate is superb! Rail is safe, comfortable, efficient, non-polluting and fast! Rail appeals to the educated person. Riding in a polluting bus is like riding in a working washing machine. We need to emphasize adequate parking at each rail station.

  • com63

    I like the Newsom idea for more HOV lanes. I feel like this should be the default approach. If the HOV lane is slow, take a regular lane and make it HOV as well. Keep doing this until bus travel is always reliably fast.

    I’m more interested in which of these candidates has shown a passion for transportation issues in the past. New Yorkers got burned by Bill DeBlasio who put out a pretty good transportation platform ahead of his first election, but once in office couldn’t really care less about the most pressing transportation issues. Finding someone who has a prior passionate record is ideal.

  • Susan De Vos

    Too much talk of rail and not enough of the bus. Land use, connectivity, social justice, speed limits, PARKING, tax policy etc. are all important too. As executives need to rely on experts who can advise them, who do the candidates have in mind?

  • For Eastin, that would include changing Proposition 13 and shifting state policy to require land-use decisions to align with transportation rather than the other way around.

    This sounds an awful lot like what Strong Towns and Jarrett Walker were sparring about last week.

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