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Transportation and Climate Change Clearinghouse

Integration into Transportation Decision Making

2 - Puget Sound Regional Council Case Study

Integration of Climate Change Considerations into the Seattle Metropolitan Area Transportation Planning Process

November 2008

Ben Rasmussen
William M. Lyons

INTRODUCTION

This case study describes and evaluates how the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), the Seattle area Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO), incorporates climate change concerns in the metropolitan area transportation planning process. Climate change concerns include both reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and adapting to the impacts of climate change. PSRC has incorporated climate change concerns into their planning process in five innovative ways.

  1. Political Context: PSRC integrated climate change concerns into its multi-county planning policies, which have legislative standing.
  2. Carbon Dioxide (CO2) Criterion for Growth Alternatives: PSRC used CO2 emissions as one of its criteria used to select future growth alternatives.
  3. Forecasting CO2 for Growth Alternatives: Closely related to the preceding point, PSRC estimated how much CO2 would be emitted under each growth alternative.
  4. Key Partnerships: PSRC is partnering with several organizations and agencies to address climate change issues holistically at a regional level.
  5. Improved Technical Tools: PSRC is involved in several initiatives to improve its model, and specifically its ability to accurately reflect CO2 emissions in the region.

Climate change is a concern to PSRC and other agencies and organizations in the Puget Sound region for a number of reasons that will be explored in this report. Reasons include climate change's impact in the region, which will be significant, and in the State and local agencies in creating a planning environment that will support taking future actions to reduce GHG emissions.

To understand how PSRC is integrating climate change into its planning process, it is necessary to describe its planning process in the context of State, county, and local planning. Two examples help illustrate this point.

First, the State of Washington requires consistency between local, county, and multi-county planning policies in the Puget Sound region. This requirement means that organizations and entities that operate at these levels must coordinate their planning processes to be consistent across the region.

Second, the State of Washington requires that an environmental review be prepared for PSRC's long-range plan. This requirement has important implications for how PSRC has chosen to address climate change in its planning process.

This report begins by describing PSRC and the Puget Sound region and the policy context - including the examples above - affecting and surrounding PSRC. The next section describes how PSRC is integrating climate change into its planning process through its policies, criteria, analysis of alternatives, including selection of a preferred growth alternative. In addition to a summary of the transportation and environmental impacts of the growth alternatives, this section includes a discussion of the next steps for PSRC to further integrate climate change into its planning process. The last two sections describe how PSRC's partners together address climate change issues and how PSRC is improving its model to better address and evaluate GHG emissions and climate change impacts.

The report concludes with a summary of "take away" lessons from this PSRC case study. These observations are provided to assist interested peer MPOs and their planning partners to benefits from PSRC's innovations and experiences as MPOs begin to integrate climate change considerations within their planning processes. Selections in italics emphasize ways that climate change is being integrated into the larger, complex, and evolving transportation planning process.

OVERVIEW

PSRC is an association of cities, towns, counties, ports, and State agencies that serves as a forum for developing policies and making decisions about regional growth management, economic, and transportation issues in the four-county central Puget Sound region. PSRC is designated under Federal law as the MPO (which is required for receiving Federal transportation funds), and under State law as the Regional Transportation Planning Organization, for King, Kitsap, Pierce, and Snohomish Counties .

PSRC's members include the four counties and 71 of the region's 82 cities and towns. Other statutory members include the four port authorities of Bremerton , Everett , Seattle , and Tacoma ; the Washington State Department of Transportation; and the Washington Transportation Commission. The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe and The Suquamish Tribe are also members. In addition, a memorandum of understanding with the region's six transit agencies outlines their participation in PSRC. Associate members include the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, the Tulalip Tribes, Island County , Thurston Regional Planning Council, and the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington .

PSRC is a comprehensive planning agency that supports the needs of local and State operating agencies with complementary planning and advocacy, and serves as a center for the collection, analysis and dissemination of information vital to citizens and governments in the region.

Between 1960 and 2005, the region's population grew from 1.5 million to nearly 3.5 million. Rapid growth occurred in the late 1960s, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Over half of the population growth during this period is accounted for by net migration into the region. Somewhat surprisingly, the region gained population each year during the economic downturn of the early 2000s, albeit at a slower rate than what was seen during the 1990s.

By 2030, the region is projected to grow by an additional 1.1 million people, add over 850,000 new jobs, and will need to accommodate close to 50 percent more travel, putting even more strain on the region's transportation system. Fifty percent of GHG emissions in the State come from the transportation sector.

The PSRC voluntarily elected to consider CO2 emissions and the impacts of climate change as part of its regional planning process, which resulted in the formulation of VISION 2040, the region's long-range growth management, economic, and transportation strategy. As a key step in this process, PSRC's Growth Management Policy Board formulated multi-county planning policies (MPPs) based on factors identified in State law (Growth Management Act, Chapter 36.70A.210, RCW). The MPPs form the backbone of the VISION 2040 document. The MPPs must be integrated into the region's other planning documents as well, including Destination 2030, the region's long-range transportation plan (Figure 1)8 . These policies also provide the framework for countywide planning policies (CPPs) and local comprehensive plans (Figure 2).

Figure 1: Relationship between PSRC plans

Figure 1: Relationship between PSRC plans. If you are a user with disability and cannot view this image, call 800-853-1351

Source: PSRC

Figure 2: Relationship between regional plans and policies

Figure 2: Relationship between regional plans and policies. If you are a user with disability and cannot view this image, call 800-853-1351

Source: PSRC

POLICY CONTEXT

Multicounty Planning Policies

Under the Growth Management Act (see Box 1), MPPs provide a common region-wide framework for countywide and local planning in the central Puget Sound region. Central Puget Sound 's current MPPs, which were adopted in April 2008, are listed in the VISION 2040, the region's current strategy for future growth and development. CPPs are developed by a collaborative body of county and municipal officials. They are adopted by the county legislative body (either a county council or county board of commissioners) and are then subject to a ratification process by the cities in the county.

Box 1: The Growth Management Act and Multi-County Planning Policies

Washington state's planning legislation, the Growth Management Act, requires countywide planning policies - or for multi-county urban regions, multi-county planning policies - to provide a common policy framework for all local jurisdiction comprehensive planning within the county or multi-county region. The Growth Management Act was first adopted in 1990, and the requirement for countywide and multi-county policies was amended into the Act the following year. The Act identifies specific topics to be addressed in countywide and multi-county policies: urban growth areas, contiguous and orderly development, housing, capital facilities, transportation, economic development, and joint planning. As umbrella policies for local planning, there is an expectation that local comprehensive plans are consistent with the countywide and multi-county policies.

The four-county central Puget Sound region is currently the only multi-county urban region in Washington required to have multi-county policies in place, given the size of the region's population. Each of the counties in the PSRC region adopted their own first set of countywide policies between 1992 and 1994. Being newly established in 1992, PSRC adopted an initial set of multi-county policies in 1993, and then further updated them in 1995. Multi-county planning policies are adopted by PSRC's General Assembly, which is comprised of local elected officials from all of the counties and municipalities in the four-county region that hold membership in PSRC. The multi-county policies in VISION 2040 mark the first revisions to the multi-county policies since 1995.

There is important interplay between the provisions that end up in MPPs, CPPs, and local comprehensive plans. MPPs tend to be broader and, in addition to addressing the required topics spelled out in the law, also include other topics around which there is regional agreement, such as policies for the environment and public services. CPPs tend to offer more specific direction to local jurisdictions on how they should address certain issues. Sometimes issues that were first developed by a local jurisdiction in a comprehensive plan are viewed as having county or regional significance and find their way into CPPs or MPPs.9 Even though there is interplay, once something has been established in MPPs, there is an expectation that that issue will be addressed in CPPs and local comprehensive plans. There are hearings board and court decisions that reinforce that relationship.

The unified structure established by the MPPs has both practical and substantive effects on city and county comprehensive plans. The MPPs provide a mechanism for achieving consistency among cities and counties on regional planning matters. They also guide a number of regional processes, including the review and certification of local comprehensive plans, the evaluation of transportation projects seeking regionally managed funding, and the development of criteria for PSRC programs and projects.

VISION 2020 and VISION 2040

VISION 2040, approved in April 2008, is the current regional long-range growth management, economic, and transportation strategy for the four-county central Puget Sound region. It replaces VISION 2020, which was last revised in 1995. VISION 2020 was updated to provide a comprehensive regional approach to manage growth through the year 2040 (see timeline in Figure 3). In formulating VISION 2040, regional leaders were asked to build on VISION 2020's key priorities and be bolder, clearer, and more specific than VISION 2020. The new strategy accommodates the additional 1.7 million people and 1.2 million new jobs expected to be in the region by the year 2040.

Figure 3: VISION 2040 Update Timeline

Figure 3: VISION 2040 Update Timeline. If you are a user with disability and cannot view this image, call 800-853-1351

Source: PSRC, VISION 2040, 2008

VISION 2020 and 2040 Environmental Impact Statements

The VISION 2020 Update Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), released in May 2006, presents and discusses the potentially significant environmental impacts that may occur upon implementation of four growth management alternatives, which distribute forecasted growth into different types of areas throughout the region. The DEIS is a plan-level, or non-project, environmental impact statement, and its content is consistent with the requirements of the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) for non-project actions. The SEPA defines non-project actions as governmental actions involving decisions on policies, plans, or programs that contain standards controlling use or modifications of the environment or that will govern a series of connected actions.

Following the release of the DEIS, PSRC's Growth Management Policy Board used four tools to develop the Preferred Growth Alternative:

  1. The findings in the DEIS
  2. Input received during a public review and comment period
  3. Staff analysis on a potential Preferred Growth Alternative, which included input from a technical advisory group made up of local jurisdiction staff
  4. Application of the evaluation criteria for selecting a Preferred Growth Alternative that was published in the DEIS

Based on these four tools, the Policy Board made a recommendation to PSRC's Executive Board to release the Preferred Growth Alternative for full analysis in a Supplemental DEIS. The Executive Board took this action in March 2007.
The Supplemental DEIS, released in July 2007, presents an analysis of the environmental impacts of the VISION 2040 Preferred Growth Alternative, which is a hybrid of the alternatives presented in the DEIS. The analysis of the Preferred Growth Alternative considers the likely environmental consequences that may occur following the adoption of VISION 2040. Given the long range nature and regional scale of VISION 2040, the analysis is conducted at a regional scale that considers major geographic features, typical current environmental conditions, and broad geographies such as counties or classes of cities, rather than site-specific analysis. The analysis of this additional alternative supplements the information provided in the DEIS.

The Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), released in April 2008, combines the information found in the Draft DEIS and Supplement DEIS. The information in both of these drafts has been updated in the FEIS based on comments submitted during the two public comment periods. The VISION 2040 FEIS analyzes the Preferred Growth Alternative as well as the four other conceptual growth alternatives for accommodating forecasted growth. For each element of the built and natural environment, the FEIS describes existing conditions, potential environmental impacts associated with each alternative, potential measures to mitigate the impacts of the growth, and potentially unavoidable adverse impacts.

Destination 2030

Destination 2030 is a long-range plan for transportation in the central Puget Sound region, and also serves as the detailed transportation element of VISION 2020. The associated map displays the major transportation investments that the region has planned through year 2030. As the central Puget Sound region's comprehensive transportation action plan, Destination 2030 is intended to improve mobility, keep pace with growth, and support the region's economic and environmental health. Since adoption in 2001, the plan has won three national awards, including being named " America 's Best Plan" by the American Planning Association.

Destination 2030 underwent a limited scope update for 2007, satisfying new requirements and setting the stage for a more extensive plan update to be completed by 2010. PSRC is currently in the process of updating Destination 2030 (Figure 4). The updated plan, termed Transportation 2040, will extend the plan horizon to 2040 and evaluate ways to keep the region moving and the economy prospering as the population grows. The plan will also consider protecting the region's environment, natural resources, and quality of life. The updated plan will continue to meet Federal transportation planning requirements and the State Growth Management Act, and will align with the Regional Economic Strategy and VISION 2040.

Figure 4: Transportation 2040 Project Timeline

Figure 4: Transportation 2040 Project Timeline. If you are a user with disability and cannot view this image, call 800-853-1351

Source: PSRC

Innovation #1:
PSRC integrated climate change concerns into its multicounty planning policies, which have legislative standing.

CLIMATE CHANGE IN THE PLANNING PROCESS

This section describes how PSRC integrated climate change concerns into its planning process. PSRC achieved this end through a sequential and consistent process consisting of:

  • Development of policies that account for climate change
  • Creation of criteria based on these policies to evaluate the impacts of growth alternatives
  • Estimation of climate change impacts and the application of their criteria in the DEIS, Supplemental DEIS, and FEIS

The following section describes this process in more detail and includes an overview of how PSRC analyzed the alternatives and compared the results of the analysis in two specific areas: impacts on the transportation system and impacts on the environment.

Policies

The PSRC developed MPPs regarding climate change as part of the VISION 2040 update process, with the MPPs listed under their parent category of goals.10 In roughly chronological order, climate change started as an issue that a team of consultants identified in an environmental issue paper developed for PSRC's Growth Management Policy Board, was discussed and articulated by the Regional Staff Committee, and came into the draft VISION 2040 document as MPPs through the recommendations of Growth Management Policy Board members. This process is detailed below.

The PSRC's Growth Management Policy Board, which is comprised of elected officials from local jurisdictions with some interest group representation, has been the primary body overseeing the VISION 2040 update. In its initial scoping process in 2003 to 2004, the Policy Board received input on various issues to consider in the proposed update to the regional VISION. One of the key themes that came out of the scoping process was to provide a more integrated framework for addressing environmental issues in regional and local planning. It was proposed that a more integrated framework should expand the more limited treatment of the environment in the 1995 VISION 2020 regional plan - which focused primarily on open space and protection of resource lands - to address various facets of land, water, and air more comprehensively.

The Policy Board then identified 10 key topics from the scoping process for more detailed analysis - among those topic areas was "the environment." The PSRC let a small contract to a consultant team to develop an "Issue Paper on Environmental Planning," which was completed and endorsed by the Policy Board for public review in August 2005. Climate change was referenced in the section on air quality in the issue paper.

Also during 2004 and 2005, the Policy Board reviewed the existing MPPs from the 1995 VISION 2020 document, and identified which policies were still relevant, which should be revised, and where there were policy gaps. In reviewing the open space and resource lands policies, the Policy Board recommended that these environmental considerations provide an overarching framework for the provisions in the update. Preliminary guidance from the Policy Board also suggested that specific environmental policies should be more comprehensive in addressing a fuller range of environmental issues beyond open space.

The Regional Staff Committee, a high-level committee at PSRC, then worked with guidance from the Policy Board and the findings of the issue paper to craft draft policies for the Policy Board to consider. The Staff Committee includes planning directors, public works directors, and economic development directors from local jurisdictions in the four-county region as well as senior staff from two State agencies, plus the region's clean air agency. This committee worked with existing MPPs, the recommendations in the issue paper, and the guidance from the Policy Board to create a set of draft "Environment MPPs" that addressed five topic areas:

  1. Environmental stewardship
  2. Earth and habitat
  3. Water quality
  4. Air quality
  5. Climate change

The committee spent some time discussing whether air quality and climate change should be one set of related policies, or separate subsections. Following the recommendation of the representative from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, climate change was made its own stand-alone sub-section.

The Regional Staff Committee's full set of policy recommendations was then transmitted back to the Growth Management Policy Board to consider in the fall 2006. The Policy Board worked through each section of draft policies and developed a final set of proposed revisions to the MPPs that was then transmitted to PSRC's Executive Board for review and action. For example, when the Policy Board reviewed the climate change policies, they added the policy provision that addresses the water-related implications of climate change. In March 2007, the Executive Board authorized the release of the draft MPPs for public review and comment. MPPs must be followed in all subsequent planning processes. Climate change issues therefore will be addressed in Transportation 2040 in-line with the MPPs and actions listed in Vision 204011 .

Criteria

Innovation #2:
PSRC used CO2 emissions as one of its criteria to select future growth alternatives.

The evaluation criteria contain four overarching goals as well as a series of 40-plus measures that fall within nine topic categories. The Growth Management Policy Board identified the following four overarching goals that should be advanced by the preferred growth alternative:

  1. Promote an overall high quality of life;
  2. Create an efficient land use pattern for the provision of infrastructure, facilities, and services;
  3. Protect the natural environment; and
  4. Enhance human potential and social justice.

To compare the alternatives to the four goals listed above, the Board created nine topic categories and adopted a series of measures under each category. The topic categories are:

  • Environmental quality (which includes a measure on climate change)
  • Health
  • Economic prosperity (based on meeting the objectives of the Regional Economic Strategy)
  • Land use
  • Transportation (based on meeting the objectives of Destination 2030)
  • Social justice and human potential
  • Maintaining rural character
  • Protecting resource lands
  • Efficiencies in the provision and use of infrastructure, public facilities, and services

In line with its MPPs, PSRC included climate change as one of the eleven measures under the environmental quality topic category. As described in the following section, it is measured in the analysis of alternatives by estimating the CO2 emissions generated by each alternative.

As published in the DEIS, the measures were anticipated to be evaluated on a scale of one to four, with four being the highest (or best) score and one being the lowest (or worst) score. Upon review, the Growth Management Policy Board suggested that this scoring component be removed. The rationale was that the measures were not weighted and therefore assigning scoring would make all measures "equal" to one another. Second, scoring implied a level of precision that some Board members did not believe was useful. Last, scoring might require statistical analysis, for example on quantitative measures that were essentially tied, which again implied an inappropriate level of precision.

In response to Board members' concerns regarding scoring, the measures in the FEIS now rank only one alternative as having the best/highest relationship to the goal/measure. This alternative is identified using a check mark. Where the analysis shows a second alternative being essentially tied as best, a second check mark is shown. If the analysis finds an alternative being close to the best, but of slightly lesser magnitude, a smaller check mark is shown. Where the analysis shows all the alternatives being similar or no conclusive determination is made (i.e., where a tradeoff exists that cannot easily be resolved based on either environmental or policy analysis), check marks are shown for all four of the alternatives. This scoring system is displayed in Tables 1, 3, and 5.

Table 1: Transportation Evaluation Criteria Results for the Four Alternatives

Table 1: Transportation Evaluation Criteria Results for the Four Alternatives. If you are a user with disability and cannot view this image, call 800-853-1351

Source: PSRC, Evaluation Criteria for Selecting a Preferred Growth Alternative, 2006

Analysis of Alternatives

With the regional population and economic base projected to expand by 1.7 million residents and 1.2 million jobs between 2000 and 2040, there will be significant impacts to the regional transportation system, regardless of how the growth is distributed across the region. After approximately two years of outreach and public input, PSRC identified four alternatives to accommodate this growth for evaluation in the DEIS: Growth Targets Extended, Metropolitan Cities , Larger Cities , and Smaller Cities . The alternatives provide a range of future population and employment growth patterns based on regional geographies. Each alternative reflects a different set of choices for accommodating growth in cities, rural areas, and unincorporated urban areas on a regional scale. Table 2 shows how the alternatives compare with respect to population and employment growth. Generally speaking, the alternatives can be described as follows:

  • Growth Targets Extended Alternative - The first alternative continues the growth patterns anticipated in current local land use plans out to the year 2040. Since these plans represent adopted public policy, this is the "no action" alternative. Cities and counties would continue to encourage growth to focus in urban centers, as well as some growth in unincorporated urban areas and rural areas. New jobs would locate in the large and medium size cities. New housing would locate inside cities as well as in the unincorporated urban and rural areas.
  • Metropolitan Cities Alternative - This alternative has the most focused growth. Most of the growth would occur in the metropolitan or core suburban cities. This would mean considerable redevelopment, with new housing and jobs in centers near high capacity transit. Significantly less growth would occur in the region's rural and unincorporated urban areas.
  • Larger Cities Alternative - This alternative assumes the bulk of the growth would occur in suburban cities that currently do not have designated regional growth centers. Considerable redevelopment would occur as town centers became major population and employment centers. Less growth would occur in the downtown areas of the region's largest cities, unincorporated urban areas, and rural areas.
  • Smaller Cities Alternative - This alternative has the most dispersed growth pattern. The region's smaller suburban cities and unincorporated urban growth areas would accommodate a sizable amount of the population and employment growth, resulting in new commercial and residential development in currently undeveloped areas.

Table 2: Regional Growth Alternatives Comparison: Share of Population and Employment Growth, By Regional Geography (2000 to 2040)

Table 2: Regional Growth Alternatives Comparison: Share of Population and Employment Growth, By Regional Geography (2000 to 2040). If you are a user with disability and cannot view this image, call 800-853-1351

Source: PSRC, DEIS, 2006

Estimates of Transportation Impacts in the FEIS

In the FEIS, PSRC modeled the impact of the various growth alternatives on the recommended transportation system in Destination 2030. The anticipated effects on this transportation system are summarized in Figure 5.

Figure 5: Summary Comparison of All 2040 Alternatives and Base Year 2000: Regional Level Indicators12

Figure 5: Summary Comparison of All 2040 Alternatives and Base Year 2000: Regional Level Indicators. If you are a user with disability and cannot view this image, call 800-853-1351

Source: PSRC, DEIS, 2006

Transportation evaluation criteria results are split between the Metropolitan Cities and Larger Cities alternatives in Table 3. On issues related to use of the system (miles and hours traveled, delay, travel times and distances), the Larger Cities alternative's slightly higher levels of dispersion among cities within the urban growth area create better performance. This is a function, in part, of moving more jobs to areas that currently have higher levels of population (e.g., meaning the impact comes from the existing large base of population in these areas, not just from new growth), creating more "centers of activity" to which trip destinations are attracted. On issues related to modes and access (mode split and household access by different modes), the slightly higher level of focus within the urban growth area by the Metropolitan Cities alternative creates better performance. This is also, in part, a function of assigning future growth to areas that have higher levels of planned transit service and putting additional jobs and population in closer proximity. Many of these issues are tractable and will be more fully addressed with project and program specific mitigation analyzed as part of the update to Destination 2030 in 2007 to 2010.

Table 3: Climate Change Criteria Evaluation of Alternatives

Table 3: Climate Change Criteria Evaluation of Alternatives. If you are a user with disability and cannot view this image, call 800-853-1351

Source: PSRC, Evaluation Criteria for Selecting a Preferred Growth Alternative, 2006

Estimates of Environmental Quality Impacts and CO2 Emissions in the DEIS

Innovation #3:
PSRC chose to estimate how much CO2 was emitted under each growth alternative.

As discussed above, SEPA requires that an EIS be performed for all non-project actions. SEPA, however, does not require that PSRC analyze CO2 emissions as part of its EIS process. This was a decision made by PSRC Boards, with input from the various committees involved with the Vision update.

As part of the analysis conducted for the DEIS, PSRC estimated CO2 emissions alongside the emissions of the criteria pollutants generated under each growth management alternative for the year 2040 (Table 4). To calculate CO2 emissions for each alternative, PSRC used the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) average vehicle emission factors, which are similar to MOBILE 6.2, to generate CO2 emission estimates. These factors only base CO2 emissions on vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and vehicle type and are not able to capture speed or characteristics of the area. These estimates, while helpful since they show how the alternatives compare, are therefore broad and not very detailed. This shortcoming is discussed in more detail in the Technical Issues section below.

Table 4: Projected Pollutant Emissions in 2040 (tons/day)1

Table 4: Projected Pollutant Emissions in 2040 (tons/day). If you are a user with disability and cannot view this image, call 800-853-1351

Source: PSRC, DEIS, 2006

Encompassing the overarching goal to "Protect the natural environment," the focused growth alternatives (Metropolitan Cities and Larger Cities) demonstrate fewer environmental impacts region-wide (Table 5). These alternatives, which have the same amount of growth within the urban growth area (although the Larger Cities alternative shifts some growth from the metropolitan cities to the larger suburban cities) present two discrete policy options for accommodating future growth in a manner that lessens environmental impacts. As part of this analysis, staff determined that the Metropolitan Cities and Larger Cities alternatives were tied as best for reducing CO2 emissions (Table 4).

Table 5: Environmental Quality Evaluation Criteria Results for the Four Alternatives

Table 5: Environmental Quality Evaluation  Criteria Results for the Four Alternatives. If you are a user with disability and cannot view this image, call 800-853-1351

Source: PSRC, DEIS, 2006

Developing a Preferred Growth Alternative

Following the release of the DEIS, the Regional Council's Growth Management Policy Board led the process to develop VISION 2040, in coordination with other Regional Council boards and committees, between May 2006 and March 2007. During this time, the Board used four tools to develop the Preferred Growth Alternative:

  • The findings in the DEIS;
  • Input received during a public review and comment period;
  • Staff analysis on a potential Preferred Growth Alternative which included input from a technical advisory group made up of local jurisdiction staff; and
  • Application of the evaluation criteria for selecting a Preferred Growth Alternative that was published in the DEIS.

Based on the information developed through application of these four tools, the Board made a recommendation to the Regional Council's Executive Board to release the Preferred Growth Alternative for analysis in a Supplemental DEIS. The Executive Board took this action in March 2007 and the Supplemental DEIS was released on July 16, 2007. PSRC held a public comment period until September 7, 2007, which exceeded Washington 's mandatory requirement of 30 days.

After the close of the public review and comment period for the Supplemental DEIS (marking the second formal public comment period for the VISION update), the Growth Management Policy Board, with assistance from the Transportation Policy Board and the Economic Development District Board, reviewed public comment and worked with staff and consultants to incorporate changes and publish a final revision of VISION 2040 and FEIS. The FEIS includes a discussion of all substantive comments received during the two public review periods for the Draft and Supplemental DEISs. The Regional Council's policy boards and committees reviewed and took final action to recommend approval to the Executive Board. The Executive Board, in turn, made its recommendation to the Regional Council's General Assembly. The General Assembly took final action and approved the updated VISION in April 2008. The Preferred Growth Alternative is included in April 2008's FEIS and is the Regional Growth Strategy in VISION 2040.

Definition of the Preferred Growth Alternative

The Preferred Growth Alternative is similar to the other focused growth alternatives discussed in the DEIS ( Metropolitan Cities and Larger Cities ). Similar to the Growth Targets Extended and Metropolitan Cities alternatives, a significant share of the region's future growth would occur in the five major metropolitan cities and in the core cities. In this alternative, considerable redevelopment could occur in the region's metropolitan and core cities, with most new jobs reinforcing these areas as major regional employment centers. Job growth would be accompanied by a significant concentration of new residential growth in a variety of types and styles including new high-rise and mid-rise apartments, condominiums and townhouses built near job centers and in areas close to high capacity transit systems.

In the Preferred Growth Alternative, centers in larger cities would develop in and around traditional downtown main streets, town centers, neighborhood shopping areas, key transit stations, ferry terminals, park and ride facilities, and other transportation and service centers. The centers would provide local and regional services and amenities, and would likely experience substantial redevelopment and increased activity, becoming more significant regional job centers. Many new mid- and low-rise apartments, condominiums, and townhouses could also be built in these areas, although likely at lower intensities and at a reduced scale when compared to development in the larger regional growth centers in metropolitan and core cities.

At a smaller scale, locally-designated city and town centers would serve similar roles to larger city centers, providing services and housing that support communities at intensities appropriate to smaller municipalities. Growth in unincorporated urban growth areas would be prioritized in areas that are affiliated for annexation into incorporated jurisdictions. In the Preferred Growth Alternative, significantly less residential growth would occur in the region's rural areas than the trend suggested in current plans.

The Preferred Growth Alternative promotes the preservation of existing manufacturing and industrial centers. These are locations for intensive manufacturing, industrial, and related uses. Manufacturing industrial centers, along with more active regional growth centers and city centers, can help the region achieve a closer balance between jobs and housing within the counties and regional geographies, which can encourage people to live closer to their jobs and minimize long commutes.

Estimates of Transportation Impacts of the Preferred Growth Alternative

The Preferred Growth Alternative falls in the middle of the range of the alternatives for the amount of vehicle miles traveled, delay, trip times, and levels of air pollution emissions at the regional level (Table 6). For the region's general population as well as its minority and low-income residents, the Preferred Growth Alternative is likely to have some of the best access among employment, services, and residences through transit. It also has the potential for more multifamily housing development, and an increased potential for providing more affordable housing units in areas with better transit service. The Preferred Growth Alternative could require less land than under current plans (Growth Targets Extended Alternative) to meet population and employment growth needs, resulting in lower levels of development and associated infrastructure in the region's undeveloped areas.

Table 6: Summary Comparison of All 2040 Alternatives, the Preferred Growth Alternative, and the Base Year 2000: Regional Level Indicators13

Table 6: Summary Comparison of All 2040 Alternatives, the Preferred Growth Alternative, and the Base Year 2000: Regional Level Indicators. If you are a user with disability and cannot view this image, call 800-853-1351

Note: For the geographical area listed in the figure title, the mode share and average time data refer to "trips attracted to" the geographical area; the vehicle miles traveled and delay data refer to "roadways within" the geographical area; and the accessibility data refers to "people living within" the geographical area. See FEIS Appendices - Appendix I-E - Transportation Demand Model Output Data.
Source: FEIS, PSRC, 2008

Addressing aspects of the overarching goal to "Create an efficient land use pattern for the provision of infrastructure, facilities, and services," the Metropolitan Cities and Larger Cities alternatives, and to a lesser extent the Preferred Growth Alternative, demonstrate some of the best performance results (Table 7). While on most measures the Preferred Growth Alternative ranks in the middle of the range, overall it performed closer to the focused, rather than the dispersed, growth alternatives.

Table 7: Transportation Evaluation Criteria Results for the Preferred Growth Alternative

Table 7: Transportation Evaluation Criteria  Results for the Preferred Growth Alternative. If you are a user with disability and cannot view this image, call 800-853-1351

Source: PSRC, FEIS, 2008

Estimates of Environmental Quality Impacts and CO2 Emissions of the Preferred Growth Alternative

For all environmental analysis topic areas, the Preferred Growth Alternative falls within the range of the four conceptual growth alternatives analyzed in the DEIS in terms of potential environmental effects (Table 8). Encompassing the overarching goal to "Protect the natural environment," the focused growth alternatives (Metropolitan Cities, Preferred Growth, and Larger Cities) demonstrate fewer environmental impacts region wide. These alternatives, which have the same amount of growth within the urban growth area (although the Larger Cities alternative shifts some growth from the metropolitan cities to the larger suburban cities and Preferred Growth shifts some of the larger city growth to outlying areas) present discrete policy options for accommodating future growth in a manner that lessens environmental impacts. Overall, these alternatives demonstrate fewer environmental impacts region-wide than more dispersed growth alternatives. By nearly all measures, the Preferred Growth Alternative performs better than current plans (Growth Targets Extended).

Table 8: Environmental Quality Evaluation Criteria Results for the Preferred Growth Alternative

Table 8: Environmental Quality Evaluation  Criteria Results for the Preferred Growth Alternative. If you are a user with disability and cannot view this image, call 800-853-1351

Source: PSRC, FEIS, 2008

Figure 6 shows that there are more CO2 emissions estimated for the Preferred Growth Alternative than for the Metropolitan and Larger Cities Alternatives. However, the emissions estimated for the Preferred Growth Alternative are less than the other two alternatives, and are closer to the more compact growth alternatives than to the more dispersed growth alternatives. Table 9 includes a comparison of how the alternatives compare based on the application of the climate change criteria.

Figure 6: Projected CO2 Emissions in 2040 (tons/day)

Figure  6: Projected CO<sub>2</sub> Emissions in 2040 (tons/day). If you are a user with disability and cannot view this image, call 800-853-1351

Source: PSRC, FEIS, 2008

Staff at PSRC observed that decisions on what alternative to select must carefully consider the need to protect and enhance the regional economy. Ultimately, there must be a balance that makes sense to decision-makers and ultimately, the general population. For example, the region would have significantly fewer GHG emissions without large, regional employers (most notably, the Boeing Corporation) that draw employees from around the area (resulting in more VMT in the region), ship products long distances, and produce emissions from their facilities, but then economic development and the region's quality of life would decline. However, PSRC's economic plans do account for new environmentally friendly businesses and the potential for growth in "green industries."

Table 9: Climate Change Criteria Evaluation of Preferred Growth Alternative

Table 9: Climate Change Criteria Evaluation  of Preferred Growth Alternative. If you are a user with disability and cannot view this image, call 800-853-1351

Next Steps

The Preferred Growth Alternative is intended to guide the region's cities and towns as they work within their counties to periodically update local population and employment growth targets adopted in CPPs, and to provide guidance as they amend their local comprehensive plans. The Preferred Growth Alternative represents a unifying perspective about the roles that different types of communities should play in accommodating growth as each county and its cities develop.

The MPPs are designed to implement the Preferred Growth Alternative. As the primary policy statements for implementing the regional growth strategy, the MPPs have been designed to support the concentration of growth within the region's designated urban growth area and to limit development in resource and rural areas. The MPPs provide an integrated framework for addressing land use, economic development, transportation, other infrastructure, and environmental planning. The MPPs and the Preferred Growth Alternative will guide countywide planning policies and local jurisdiction comprehensive plans, thereby helping to ensure that other planning documents are consistent with the Preferred Growth Alternative.

Transportation 2040

As mentioned above, the model that PSRC ran for the VISION 2040 alternatives used the preferred/adopted transportation network from the original Destination 2030 plan from 2001. PSRC undertook limited scope updates to Destination 2030 in both 2004 and 2007, but PSRC will develop a new transportation network for 2010's update to Destination 2030, termed Transportation 2040. This network will build on the preferred growth alternative from VISION 2040. Figure 1 shows the relationship between VISION 2040 and Destination 2030.

While climate change was not mentioned in any of the previous Destination 2030 plans, climate change will be addressed in Transportation 2040. VISION 2040's MPPs, including those covering climate change, will be carried through in the update. Like other MPOs, PSRC will model how alternative transportation system scenarios compare to each other. Informed by how the model results compare between these scenarios, staff will make recommendations and the PSRC Executive Board will make its decision on the preferred alternative for Transportation 2040. This decision will subsequently guide funding decisions through the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).

PSRC Climate Action Plan

According to VISION 2040, PSRC and its member organizations will work with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, State agencies, and other environmental professionals to prepare a Climate Action Plan containing regional and local provisions. The plan should investigate ways to address climate change, reduce GHG emissions, and take specific mitigation steps to reduce air-borne carbons. The plan should also address establishing a regional climate change benchmark program. This Action Plan will be developed some time following the adoption of Vision 2040 in 2008.

Transportation Improvement Program

 Now that the policies in the Vision are adopted, the TIP may include climate change as one of the evaluation criteria to distribute Federal funds. Because the region is in maintenance status under the Clean Air Act Amendments, the evaluation criteria for air quality are heavily weighted. GHG emissions, specifically CO2, could be incorporated into that category of criteria or it may be a stand-alone criterion.

Additionally, PSRC currently reports CMAQ-funded project emission estimates using TCM Tools, which is a sketch-planning model designed to report on the emissions of a wide range of transportation control measures (TCMs) to achieve emissions reductions. PSRC is considering adding CO2 as one of the emission estimates as part of this process, but would need to do a significant amount of preparation work beforehand. For example, PSRC would need to develop a regional set of assumptions and methods for performing these estimates since there is not currently a precedent for this type of analysis. Because there is no standard for CO2 emissions resulting from this process, PSRC's standard could differ from that of other MPOs if other MPOs adopt a similar process. Accordingly, adding CO2 to this process would be a challenge, and is not a foregone conclusion.

Partners

Innovation #4:
PSRC is partnering with several organizations and agencies to holistically address climate change issues at a regional level.

As an MPO, PSRC already coordinates with Federal, state, local, and other regional agencies as part of its planning process, but on climate change issues, PSRC is fortunate to be working with several organizations and agencies that are concerned beyond their statutory requirements about climate change and its impact on the region. This level of concern among partners allows for coordination and communication on climate change issues and an allocation of tasks as well.

PSRC created a Climate Change/Air Quality Technical Working Group in spring 2007. According to PSRC, the objectives of the working group are to discuss analysis needs and the status of existing modeling tools. In addition, the goals of the group are to:

  1. Coordinate the activities occurring around the region related to transportation and climate change
  2. Coordinate with State efforts on climate change, in particular climate change analyses
  3. Work together towards utilizing a common set of talking points, analysis assumptions, and methodologies
  4. Provide technical assistance to PSRC as it integrates climate change into its long-range planning

Members of this group include representatives from the Washington State Department of Ecology, the U.S. EPA, King County, Sound Transit, City of Seattle, Washington State DOT (WSDOT), and the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency.

Role of Washington State

When work on VISION 2040 started, there were no specific guidelines or mandates from the State on climate change. Since PSRC began work on VISION 2040, the State has developed targets for GHG emissions and vehicle miles traveled, developed a comprehensive plan for meeting these targets, and has actively participated in the Western Climate Initiative. The legislation and process that established these targets are summarized below.

To date, Washington State has already taken action to cut emissions by 20% by 2050. These actions include:

  • Reducing CO2 emissions in newer cars and light trucks by more than 30% and in SUVs by 25%,
  • Adopting renewable fuels standards for transportation by requiring 2% of fuel sold to be biodiesel or ethanol
  • Instituting high-performance green building standards and energy-efficient building codes
  • Passing a clean renewable energy initiative
  • Implementing electric utility conservation programs

The Washington State Department of Ecology (DOE) and WSDOT provide valuable insight as members of PSRC's Climate Change/Air Quality Technical Working Group. These agencies have helped PSRC with technical questions as well as navigate through the state's progressive regulations.

Meeting Greenhouse Gas Emission and Vehicle Miles Traveled Targets

In the period between February 2007 and June 2008, Washington's Governor and Legislature have passed four key pieces of legislation dealing with climate change. This legislation includes Executive Order 07-02, Senate Bill 6001, Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill (E2SHB) 2815, and Senate Bill 6580. While the first three pieces of legislation tie in directly with one another and are described below, SB 6580 is described separately in Box 2. All of this legislation has important implications for climate change mitigation planning, and transportation planning in general, in the Puget Sound region.

In February 2007, the Governor signed Executive Order 07-02, which established goals for reducing GHG emissions, increasing clean energy sector jobs, and reducing expenditures on imported fuel. Senate Bill 6001, effective July 2007, adopted the Executive Order into statute with the following GHG emission targets:14

  • Reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020
  • Reduce GHG emissions to 25% below 1990 levels by 2035
  • Reduce GHG emissions to 50% below 1990 levels by 2050

The executive order also directed the DOE and the Department of Community, Trade, and Economic Development (CTED) to lead stakeholders in a process that considers a full range of policies and strategies to achieve the emissions goals.

DOE and CTED created a Climate Advisory Team (CAT) and, as a sub-group of this team, formed a Transportation Technical Working Group. The CAT was charged with coming up with recommendations for achieving the goals in the Executive Order. The CAT is co-chaired by the Directors of the Washington State DOE and CTED and has over 30 members, several of which are from the Puget Sound region and work closely with PSRC. In line with the Executive Order, the CAT submitted their report, "Leading the Way on Climate Change: The Challenge of Our Time," in February 2008. This report has 12 recommendations and 31 strategies to reduce GHG emissions and increase clean energy jobs and in-state fuel supplies.

E2SHB 2815, passed by the legislature and made effective June 2008, requires the State to meet the GHG emission reduction goals set the previous year. This bill instructs the DOE to develop the state's part of the Western Climate Initiative's plan by December 2008 for reducing CO2 emissions; gives the DOE the authority to require the largest producers of GHGs to report their emissions beginning in 2010, which is a key component of a cap and trade system; and creates an initiative for increasing the number of clean-energy jobs through job training.

Specific to the transportation sector, E2SHB 2815 also sets the following targets for reduction of vehicle miles traveled:

  • Decrease the annual per capita vehicle miles traveled by eighteen percent by 2020;
  • Decrease the annual per capita vehicle miles traveled by thirty percent by 2035; and
  • Decrease the annual per capita vehicle miles traveled by fifty percent by 2050;

The CAT is intricately involved with the work laid out in E2SHB 2815 (Figure 7). This bill directed the CAT to continue its work and recommend "most promising actions to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases or otherwise respond to climate change." Building off its February 2008 report, the CAT presented its report "Leading the Way: Implementing Practical Solutions to the Climate Change Challenge," in November 2008.

Available at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange/2008CATdocs/ltw_app_v2.pdf, the report presents a suite of complementary polices the CAT identified as strategies that will further reduce GHG emissions. Implementing all of the policy recommendations from the CAT will generate jobs and could result in about 39 percent of the reductions necessary to meet the state's 2020 emissions reductions. If fully implemented, these policies will:

  • Increase public transportation and ridesharing options, providing individuals with a variety of alternatives to single occupancy vehicles.
  • Direct growth and development to compact, transit oriented areas, and away from rural and resource lands.
  • Create jobs by expanding energy efficiency programs, strengthening building and energy codes, and increasing the use of combined heat and power.
  • Reduce the amount of solid waste generated and disposed of through increased recycling and reuse programs, and improved product design.
  • Protect Washington's working forests and agricultural lands.

A sub-group of the CAT, the Transportation Implementation Working Group (IWG), worked with the WSDOT to develop policy proposals specific to the transportation sector. As part of the larger CAT report, this group provided a report to the transportation committees of the legislature on the recommended tools to achieve the state's reduction in annual per capita VMT goals in November 2008. This report, entitled "Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Increasing Transportation Choices for the Future," is also available at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange/2008CATdocs/ltw_app_v2.pdf.

To reduce VMT, with the ultimate goal of reducing GHG emissions, the Transportation IWG recommended a package of strategies that fall into three broad categories of VMT reduction activities:

  • Transit, Ridesharing, and Commuter Choice Programs, including recommendations to expand and enhance current programs to increase viable transportation options available to Washington residents to conduct the activities, trips, and travel needed and desired for daily life.
  • Compact and Transit Oriented Development and Bicycle and Pedestrian Accessibility that supports the development of compact walking, bicycling, and public transportation-friendly communities and to increase the travel choices available.
  • Transportation Funding and Pricing Strategies that identify and create potential pricing mechanisms to support and incentivize GHG and VMT reductions, and stress key considerations for revenue use to support transportation infrastructure maintenance and operations.

Informed by these reports, the DOE submitted its comprehensive plan to achieve the required emissions reductions to the Legislature on December 22, 2008. The first edition of that plan, available at www.ecy.wa.gov/climatechange/2008CompPlan.htm, focuses on the emissions reductions required by 2020. It presents a coordinated set of policies -- including
incentives, regulations, and disincentives -- to meet the GHG emissions reductions adopted into
law in 2008 as part of E2SHB 2815. According to the plan:

    The central policy of this plan is participation in the regional cap-and-trade program designed by the Western Climate Initiative (WCI). By capping GHG emissions, we will achieve the environmental certainty scientists say is critical if we are to slow the rate of climate change. The cap-and-trade program will provide emitting industries with flexibility on how they make the needed reductions. It will make clean energy sources more competitive with fossil fuel. It will also provide the regulatory certainty needed to support long-term investments in the green economy, investments that will move us toward the low-carbon future, creating jobs along the way.15

The plan is conceived as not being static: "To the contrary, it is vital that we be nimble, adaptive, and that we learn from the experiences of other jurisdictions. Further actions will be needed to meet our 2035 and 2050 emissions reductions. Many of the recommendations related to land use and transportation are longer-term strategies. Innovation will make things possible tomorrow that may seem out of reach today."16

While the DOE's authority to require the state's largest polluters to report their emissions would apply to at least 80 businesses and utilities, including refineries, pulp and paper mills, cement kilns, lumber mills, large manufacturers and food processors, it will also apply to motor vehicle fleets producing at least 2,500 tons of carbon dioxide, which equals about 250,000 gallons of fuel burned annually. That includes truck and delivery fleets, rental car companies, phone and cable companies, and government-agency fleets. How much these different entities will be allowed to pollute will be determined by the Western Climate Initiative.

Figure 7: Relationship of 2008 Washington State Climate Activities

Figure 7: Relationship of 2008 Washington State Climate Activities. If you are a user with disability and cannot view this image, call 800-853-1351

Source: DOE and DCTED, Memo to the 2008 CAT, 2008

Box 2: Overview of Senate Bill 6580 - Local Solutions to Climate Change

Effective since June 2008, Senate Bill 6580 provides tools and technology for cities and counties to curtail GHG emissions through smart land-use and transportation planning. Senate Bill 6580 addresses mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions through land use and transportation planning processes under the Growth Management Act (GMA). This bill requires CTED to:

  • Develop and provide counties and cities with a range of advisory climate change response methodologies, a computer modeling program, and estimates of GHG emissions reductions which must reflect regional and local variations of the county or city by December 1, 2009;
  • Work with WSDOT to reduce vehicle miles traveled;
  • Administer a local government global warming mitigation and adaptation program, which must conclude by June 30, 2010. Up to three counties and six cities are to be selected for the program through a competitive process; and
  • Provide grants and technical assistance to aid the selected counties and cities in their efforts to anticipate, mitigate, and adapt to global warming and its associated problems.

Senate Bill 6580 also requires CTED to prepare two reports. One report must include descriptions of actions that counties and cities are taking to address climate change, among other items by December 2008, and the other must cover program findings and recommendations to the Governor and Legislature by January 2011. More specifically, these reports must:

  • Describe current actions being taken by local governments to address climate change;
  • Recommend amendments to GMA and other statutes (if needed) to help State and local governments address climate change issues through land use and transportation planning processes;
  • Describe computer models and other analytic and assessment tools that could help local governments address climate change issues;
  • Assess State and local resources needed to put the report's recommendations into practice and recommend funding; and
  • Consider positive and negative impacts to affordable housing, employment, transportation costs, and economic development that result from addressing the impacts of climate change at the local level.

Western Climate Initiative

Washington is a member of the Western Climate Initiative (WCI), which is a collaboration launched in February 2007 between the Governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington to meet regional challenges raised by climate change. Since that time, Utah, Montana, and Canadian provinces British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec have joined the effort and several additional states and provinces are observers. Together, the seven states and four provinces represent over 70 percent of the Canadian economy and 20 percent of the U.S. economy.

In August 2007, the governments agreed to reduce their GHG emissions by 15 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. To achieve this goal, the partners committed to designing a carbon-trading system within a year. In September 2008, the WCI announced recommendations for the design of a regional market-based cap-and-trade program. When implemented, this program will cover nearly 90% of the region's emissions.

Unlike a similar multi-state program along the east coast (the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative), the program the members are considering is not limited to power plants. The WCI system includes:

  • Electricity generation, including imported electricity
  • Industrial and commercial fossil fuel combustion
  • Industrial process emissions
  • Gas and diesel consumption for transportation
  • Residential fuel use

The timeline agreed to by the WCI member states and provinces is that each will begin reporting emissions in 2011 for emissions that occur in 2010. The first phase of the cap-and-trade program will begin on January 1, 2012, with a three-year compliance period. The second phase will begin in 2015, when the program is expanded to include transportation fuels and residential, commercial, and industrial fuels not otherwise covered in the first phase.

As part of this initiative or some future Federal or State policy or program, it is possible that CO2 could be regulated as a criteria pollutant to limit GHG emissions from the transportation sector. If this occurs, PSRC will be in a strong institutional and technical position to respond since regions would need to be able to model CO2 emissions and develop strategies to meet future CO2 emissions targets.

According to DOE and CTED, much work remains on the details of the WCI cap-and-trade program. What has been recommended to date is the policy framework that outlines what must be the same across the participating jurisdictions to have a functional regional market. The framework also defines where each State or province may exercise its own discretion without distorting the carbon market. The areas of discretionary authority will be determined through legislative and administrative processes in Washington.17

Proactive Partners: King County and the City of Seattle

The region had two of the most active national political champions for local action on climate change: King County Executive Ron Sims and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels. Their jurisdictions have been active for many years in climate change issues. In addition to guiding climate change work at the county and municipal level, respectively, King County and Seattle have seats on the MPO Board as well as on various PSRC committees. Their climate change work at county and municipal levels helped set the stage for the work PSRC is doing for the region. According to PSRC staff, "Their actions create a good environment for doing our work." While King County's and Seattle's plans, policies, and actions are specific to what occurs within the purview of the county and city respectively, PSRC can support these actions by providing support for some of their projects and placing actions within a regional context.

King County

King County is a leading county on climate change issues nationwide. In addition to having developed their own Climate and Energy Plans, policies, and actions to reduce emissions throughout the county, King County's Executive Ron Sims and his staff were involved in several national-level climate change initiatives and studies.

King County's goal is to reduce GHG emissions by 80% below current levels by 2050. The plan calls for cleaner cars and fewer cars as the solution for reducing automobile emissions, which account for more than half the GHG emissions in the region (Table 10). The King County Climate Plan and relevant Executive Order summaries include goals that are specific to the transportation sector18.

Table 10: Sources of GHG Emissions by Sector for the United States, Washington State, King County Region, and King County Operations

Table 10: Sources  of GHG Emissions by Sector for the United States, Washington State, King County  Region, and King County Operations. If you are a user with disability and cannot view this image, call 800-853-1351

Source: King County

King County also operates the region's major transit agency, Metro Transit. Numerous goals and actions listed in King County's Climate Plan discuss increasing transit's mode share and reducing GHG emissions from its fleet. Under a proposal by King County Executive Ron Sims, King County became the first county and the first major bus transit agency in the nation to join the Chicago Climate Exchange in 2006. The Chicago Climate Exchange is North America's only voluntary, legally binding pilot program for reducing and trading GHG emissions, and is the most active carbon exchange in the nation. It requires members to reduce carbon emissions and allows trading of carbon credits. The Exchange contract obligates King County to reduce emissions by six percent from a baseline of its year 2000 emissions.

Box 3: Seattle's Transportation-Specific Climate Change Goals

Reduce Seattle Dependence on Cars (reduce GHG by 170,000 tons by 2012)

  • Action #1: Significantly Increase the Supply of Frequent, Reliable and Convenient Public Transportation
  • Action #2: Significantly Expand Bicycling and Pedestrian Infrastructure
  • Action #3: Lead a Regional Partnership to Develop and Implement a Road Pricing System
  • Action #4: Implement a New Commercial Parking Tax
  • Action #5: Expand Efforts to Create Compact, Green, Urban Neighborhoods

Increase Fuel Efficiency and Use of Biofuels (reduce GHG by 200,600 tons by 2012)

  • Action #6: Improve the Average Fuel Efficiency of Seattle's Cars and Trucks
  • Action #7: Substantially Increase the Use of Biofuels
  • Action #8: Significantly Reduce Emissions from Diesel Trucks, Trains and Ships

Seattle

Seattle participates in and plays a leadership role in the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which commits cities to reduce GHG emissions to seven percent below 1990 levels by 2012, and calls for a Federal limit on emissions19. Seventeen Puget Sound area cities have signed on to the Agreement, including the four core cities in each county (Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, and Bremerton). Like King County, Seattle is also a participant in ICLEI's Cities for Climate Protection Campaign, which provides cities and counties with the tools and support necessary to inventory their GHG emissions, set targets to reduce these emissions, develop a Climate Action Plan, implement the actions, and monitor the results. Box 3 lists some of the plan's transportation-specific climate change goals.

Since motor vehicle emissions are the single largest source of GHG emissions pollution in Seattle, the City believes that it must do even more to provide climate-friendly transportation choices such as taking public transit, bicycling, and walking -- and to encourage greater use of those alternatives. The Climate Action Plan calls for significant improvements in infrastructure and incentives, including additional investments to make taking transit, biking, and walking easier, safer, and more convenient; a commercial parking tax; and a stronger push toward regional road-pricing strategies that have proven successful in other cities.

Seattle City Light, Seattle's publicly owned electric power utility, achieved its long-term goal to reduce net GHG emissions to zero in 2005, thereby becoming the first large electric utility in the country to effectively eliminate its contribution of GHG emissions into the environment. City Light attained this goal by working with other organizations, such as King County Metro and Washington State Ferries, to reduce emissions and thereby offset greenhouses gasses associated with the utility. According to their website, "In 2004 Seattle City Light helped reduce air pollution in the Puget Sound basin by working with the Washington State Ferries and Metro Transit to convert to biodiesel fuels, secured an agreement with the Port of Seattle to provide on-shore power to cruise ships so they would not have to run their diesel generators while in port, and gained recognition from the Nation Hydropower Association for outstanding stewardship of the Skagit River for the sixth year in a row."20

The Seattle Climate Partnership

In February 2005, Mayor Nickels challenged Seattle to meet or exceed the global warming pollution reduction targets of the Kyoto Protocol; he appointed a Green Ribbon Commission on Climate Protection to develop recommendations for achieving that goal. One of the Commission's key recommendations was the formation of the Seattle Climate Partnership-a voluntary pact among Seattle-area employers to take action to reduce their own emissions and to work together to help meet the community-wide goal.

Twelve Seattle-area employers -- the Port of Seattle, Recreational Equipment Inc., the University of Washington, Starbucks Coffee Company, Urban Visions, Group Health, Lafarge Seattle, Shoreline Community College, Mithun, Garvey Schubert Barer, King County, and the City of Seattle -- came together to develop and grow the Partnership. These "founding partners" have drafted a Partnership Agreement that spells out the Partners' commitments. In addition, they are developing a suite of services for participating employers, including a robust technical assistance program, networking services, and a recognition program.

The Port of Seattle

While not directly working with PSRC on the planning activities described in this report, the Port of Seattle has been active in understanding and reducing its GHG emissions in addition to being a member of the partnership described above. In November 2006, the Port started its Climate Change Program and created a Climate Change Core Team composed of staff. As of June 2007, the Port's program is "benchmarking" initiatives related to climate undertaken by similar organizations, and has refined its objectives and expectations, improved transparency and communications, and participated in community and industry partnerships. The program has also begun considering and implementing climate change related projects to reduce emissions to meet targets and to adapt to future impacts.21

The program has also begun conducting emissions inventories. The program is conducting this inventory by looking at three scopes:

  • Scope I - Owned (direct) emissions. Examples include Port vehicle fleets, facilities, waste, and materials.
  • Scope II - Purchased (indirect) emissions. Examples include utilities and Port professional air travel.
  • Scope III - Influenced (induced) emissions. Examples include employee commuting and tenants' emissions.

As of June 2007, the airport and seaport inventories were underway (Scopes I and II) and the Puget Sound Maritime Emissions Inventory was complete (Scopes I and III).

The Port of Seattle, which manages Seattle-Tacoma (Sea-Tac) Airport, recently asked the Clean Airport Partnership to assess environmental achievements at the airport and identify practical opportunities that remain for maximizing environmental performance. According to the resulting report, Sea-Tac has one of the strongest environmental programs of any airport in the nation. Opportunities identified by the report include:

  • Considering CO2 benefits in the Port's prioritization of air quality improvement strategies, including CO2 emissions
  • Tracking progress as part of Sea-Tac's "Environmental Footprint"
  • Examining transferability of European climate change offset programs to Sea-Tac22

Sea-Tac Airport purchases renewable energy credits for 25% of its electricity. The Sea-Tac website also provides a link for credits to be purchased to offset travel emissions.23

Next steps for the program include:

  • Collecting Port Commission feedback on climate change policy options and direction
  • Increasing communications
  • Completing its emissions inventories, continuing its cost-benefit analysis of projects
  • Prioritizing specific project ideas
  • Implementing high-scoring projects, strengthening program management
  • Continuing to support community and industry collaborative efforts
  • Seeking Commission approval and support for the climate change program itself

Sound Transit

Sound Transit was created by the State legislature to build a mass transit system that connects regional employment and population centers in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. Sound Transit operates 25 express buses; the Sounder commuter rail service between Everett, Seattle, and Tacoma; and the Tacoma Link light rail in Tacoma. Representatives from Sound Transit are on PSRC's Climate Change/Air Quality Technical Working Group. According to Sound Transit's website, Sound Transit has 22 electric hybrid buses in its fleet, an all-electric light rail system, and ultra-low-sulfur fuel used in the Sounder locomotive fleet.24

Puget Sound Clean Air Agency

The Puget Sound Clean Air Agency is a special-purpose, regional agency chartered by State law in 1967 (RCW 70.94). The agency works in partnership with the U.S. EPA and the Washington State Department of Ecology. The agency's jurisdiction is the same as PSRC's: it covers King, Kitsap, Pierce and Snohomish Counties. The agency's staff of 70 includes air quality planners and engineers, inspectors, meteorologists, and technicians who maintain air quality monitoring equipment.

The agency is governed by a Board of Directors, which is comprised of elected officials from each of the four counties in its jurisdiction, a representative from the largest city in each county, and one member representing the public-at-large. The agency also has an Advisory Council comprised of individuals representing large and small businesses, non-regulated business, education, transportation, health, tribes, fire officials, the environmental community, ports and the public-at-large.

In 2003 the Board of Directors directed the agency to convene a stakeholder process to assist in developing a Climate Protection Program. The Climate Protection Advisory Committee (CPAC) was formed, comprised of stakeholders from business, government including PSRC, and public interest organizations. In January 2005, the 25-member committee issued its recommendations and priorities for GHG emission reductions in our region.

One of the actions from VISION 2040 states:

    "The Puget Sound Regional Council and its member organizations will work with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, State agencies, and other environmental professionals to prepare an action plan containing regional and local provisions. The plan should investigate ways to: (a) address climate change in accordance with the Governor's 2007 Climate Change initiative and State legislation on greenhouse gas emissions reduction (RCW 80.80.020), (b) reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and, (c) take specific mitigation steps to address climate change impacts. The plan should also address establishing a regional climate change benchmark program. (short-term) (MPP-En-20 through 25). Results and Products: Action plan for climate change, climate change benchmark program."

PSRC will work with the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency on the action plan over the coming years.

TECHNICAL CONSIDERATIONS

Innovation #5:
PSRC is involved in several initiatives to improve its model, and specifically its ability to accurately reflect CO2 emissions in the region.

The models that are currently used to evaluate CO2 emissions are relatively unsophisticated. PSRC used EPA's average vehicle emission factors to estimate the region's current and projected CO2 emissions for VISION 2040. While MOBILE 6.2 is useful in that it estimates CO2 emissions (which is not a criteria pollutant), it does so only based on VMT and vehicle mix. This estimate therefore does not incorporate other important factors, such as speed and factors that may affect a person's choice to drive or take another form of transportation. Accordingly, PSRC is undertaking several travel demand research projects and model improvements and is partnering with the EPA to test and refine other models to enable them to better estimate and project the region's CO2 emissions.

PSRC is leading the nation in developing this technology and realizes its importance as a "guinea pig" in this field. Having what may be the best transportation model for estimating CO2 emissions in the nation not only benefits PSRC but also benefits all of the agencies with which PSRC works with. With such an accurate model, PSRC's partners (which include the City of Seattle, King County, and Washington State) all have a better and more accurate idea of what transportation's CO2 emissions are in their jurisdictions, and will be better informed about the CO2 impacts of alternative transportation decisions.

Travel Demand Research and Model Improvements

Working with its Climate Change/Air Quality Technical Working Group, PSRC has identified a series of short-term travel demand forecasting model improvements that can provide the sensitivities and accuracy in the travel forecasting model outputs needed to evaluate the impact of transportation and land use alternatives on climate change. These travel demand model outcomes would be used directly in the emissions models to estimate effects on GHG emissions.

As a first step, PSRC identified six priority areas of model improvements:

  • Undertaking a series of test changes to determine whether the changes improve the validation of traffic speeds and volumes. The test changes with the most promising outcomes will be implemented and the trip assignment model will be recalibrated to match observed speeds and volumes.
    The trip assignment model was updated to add 15 time periods (expanded from 5 time periods), adding a measure of reliability and improving the speed validation for freeways.
  • Creating and integrating an activity generation model that can be used to test sensitivities on trip-making to congestion, tolling, trip chaining, density, accessibility, urban design, age, and life cycle variables. These variables can clearly affect whether to make a trip or not (including substitutions for working at home, shopping on the internet, etc.) and how many trips and stops are needed to meet daily requirements for activities. As part of this work, PSRC will develop a plan for creating and implementing a comprehensive tour-based micro-simulation activity model.
    The activity generation model was developed and tested; validation of the model continued through summer 2008. The design plan for the full activity-based model was delivered in draft form in June 2008 and the final was to be completed in August 2008.
  • Segregating the mode choice model into different modes so that all transit modes are no longer treated equally in the model. PSRC will represent bus, rail, and ferry explicitly, including the representation of the time and cost associated with these modes. Segmenting the mode choice model into different modes will allow fares and other factors to be considered on a mode by mode basis, which will allow PSRC to consider differences in reliability and convenience by mode.
    Update: The work to develop new inputs for the mode choice model is complete and the coding and testing of the new mode choice model is in progress.
  • Adding sensitivity in the model to represent walk and bike trips more accurately, including the development of pedestrian and bicycle environment factors. This will entail creating walkability factors, including measures of intersection density, retail floor area, and mixed land uses for each traffic analysis zone to improve the walk, bike, and transit modes in the mode choice model. PSRC is also proposing a method to better capture and estimate short trips, typically made by walking, within a traffic analysis zone.
    Update: The development of the urban form variables to represent walk and bike trips is complete; the inclusion of these in the models was to occur in fall 2008.
  • Testing the sensitivity of the model to a range of parking costs from conservative to a realistic high end to better represent the cost of driving in the model. PSRC is also proposing to identify the potential reasonable range of potential future gas prices and then using these ranges to test the sensitivity of the model and predict the potential impacts on vehicle miles traveled and emissions.
  • Reviewing existing micro-simulation modeling and existing literature on transportation operations in order to develop methods for best applying the region's travel demand models in the analysis of a range of operational approaches to improving the performance of transportation facilities.

Some of these tasks are temporary improvements that will improve how the model functions in the interim until more substantial changes to the model are made in coming years. Other changes are more permanent and will be relevant as PSRC's model evolves. The estimated cost of these six priority improvements is over $350,000, with expected completion times of between six weeks and six months.

Current Methods for Analysis

The above improvements should be completed in time for the alternatives analysis and estimation of CO2 emissions for Destination 2040. As is the case nationally for criteria pollutants, the analysis and estimates will be performed on the recommended transportation network and any alternative(s) and will not be estimated on a project-by-project basis. Smaller-grained estimates, i.e., for variations at the corridor or project level, are currently not viable due to the amount of time necessary to run the model and the difficulty of accurately being able to pinpoint the causes and effects of individual variations in a regional context. Other models, discussed below, may be used for the update, but they may not be approved for use in time, especially for conformity purposes. The current MOBILE 6.2-based model is used for estimating emissions 20 to 30 years into the future but also for shorter-range conformity purposes, as is the case for the Transportation Improvement Program, which spans four years.

Future Methods for Analysis

The EPA is developing a new model, termed MOVES, that has the potential to improve the estimation of CO2 emissions. Until the official release of MOVES, which may be several years out, PSRC is working with the EPA and FHWA on options for improvements to the existing analysis capabilities for CO2 emissions. PSRC worked with FHWA and EPA to secure a grant for modeling improvements, and to become the MPO pilot project for estimating GHG emissions for a transportation plan using a draft copy of MOVES. According to the EPA's website:

    "To keep pace with new analysis needs, modeling approaches, and data, the EPA's Office of Transportation and Air Quality is developing a modeling system termed the MOtor Vehicle Emission Simulator (MOVES). This new system will estimate emissions for on-road and non-road sources, cover a broad range of pollutants, and allow multiple scale analysis, from fine-scale analysis to national inventory estimation. When fully implemented, MOVES will serve as the replacement for MOBILE6 and NONROAD. The new system will not necessarily be a single piece of software, but instead will encompass the necessary tools, algorithms, underlying data and guidance necessary for use in all official analyses associated with regulatory development, compliance with statutory requirements, and national/regional inventory projections. This project was previously known as the New Generation Mobile Source Emissions Model (NGM)."25

Challenges

Currently, there is a demand from some MPOs for models that better estimate CO2 emissions. PSRC is working around the tools that they have as they try to find improved methods; this takes flexibility and resourcefulness. MOBILE 6.2 is adequate at the macro level, but it is critical to continue improving and refining models to be more accurate and to improve credibility if future policy and investment decisions are to be made based at least in part on CO2 emission estimates.

CONCLUSIONS

The following key observations are based on the analysis above regarding the progress PSRC is making with integration of climate change into the regional transportation planning process.

These observations are provided to assist interested peer MPOs and their planning partners to learn from PSRC's innovations and experiences as other areas begin initial efforts to integrate climate change considerations within their planning processes.

    Role of vision planning - A vision document provides for high level consideration of, and establishes the connections between climate change goals (specifically, reducing GHG emissions), traditional transportation goals (such as improving accessibility and mobility), and other regional goals indirectly related to transportation (such as improving air quality, economic development, land use, equity, and energy). By overlaying these goals in vision planning, MPOs can begin to ensure that climate change will be considered in decision-making throughout the planning process.
    Supportive role of comprehensive planning at state, regional, and local levels - Washington State's Growth Management Act and other policies provide a supportive legislative framework for regional and local governments to work together to manage growth and create land use strategies to encourage sustainability and reduce GHG emissions. Additionally, SEPA provided an opportunity for PSRC to estimate and compare CO2 emissions between growth alternatives in its DEIS. Lacking this or a similar legislative foundation, it may be more difficult for other areas to replicate PSRC's approach to GHG reductions. However, PSRC's voluntary decision to examine CO2 emissions as part of its DEIS is a testament to the ability of MPOs to create opportunities and avenues to begin analysis of this critical public policy in the absence of specific statutory requirements.
    An ongoing collaborative process - It is critical to establish and continue a collaborative process that involves stakeholders and the public to develop the vision, create buy-in, and build support for the decisions reflected in the selected alternative. According to PSRC, the development of the Vision and alternative development and selection generated widespread interest and involvement in the region's future, and adding climate change considerations raised awareness and interest even further. Tackling a major public concern such as climate change in the MPO planning process raises the visibility and relevance of the overall MPO process regionally and brings additional supportive partners to the table.
    Role of political champions - Mayor Nickels and former Executive Sims are national leaders on regional/urban climate change issues. While this may not directly lead to integration of climate change into the planning process in the way that statutes or regulations would, political champions establish critical momentum by opening doors for collaboration, bringing additional stakeholders to the table, and laying a critical political foundation the planning agencies can build upon.
    Active support of partners - PSRC's efforts to bring climate change considerations into the region's transportation planning are enhanced by their success working with several organizations and agencies that are concerned beyond their statutory requirements about climate change and its impact on the region. This level of concern among partners allows for coordination and communication on climate change issues and accomplishment of technical planning tasks.
    A long-term time horizon - The long-range planning timeline dovetails with many climate change goals, such as Washington's goals to reduce GHG emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, 25% below 1990 levels by 2035, and 50% below 1990 levels by 2050.26 As an expansion of this initiative or some future Federal or State policy or program, it is possible that CO2 could be regulated as a criteria pollutant to limit GHG emissions from the transportation sector. If this occurs, PSRC will be in a strong institutional and technical position to do the required planning work, including modeling CO2 emissions and developing strategies to meet future CO2 emissions targets. Many of the transportation and land use policies and strategies likely to have significant effects on GHG emissions are most realistically considered only over a long time horizon - twenty years or longer. It is also difficult to demonstrate significant impacts of shorter term transportation decisions and adjustments to the built environment.
    Importance of economic development - From an economic perspective, MPOs need to demonstrate where there are opportunities to strengthen the economy while meeting climate change goals. Strategies that diminish regional economies will not be supported in a process that depends on broadly based collaboration and consensus. Estimating the benefits of and educating people about a regional green economy is one way for MPOs and their partners to make this case.
    Credible technical tools are critical - Although PSRC has not yet completed its development of the models and related tools to accurately estimate CO2 emissions, its efforts to date lend credibility to its modeling process and bring more interested parties to the table. Once PSRC has accomplished a more accurate estimation of CO2 emissions, other MPOs can build from this process. PSRC's desire to lead the nation in this area demonstrates their commitment to climate change issues and establishes their leadership role not only regionally, but also nationally.

8 Figure 1 and other PSRC figures in this section are from http://psrc.org/projects/vision/index.htm

9 Examples are policies for health and the built environment. King County first incorporated new policies addressing health and land use a couple of years ago. PSRC is now building on that individual jurisdiction work and bringing it into the regional policy arena, which will then establish it as part of the regional framework for all localities to address as they work on future amendments and updates to the their local comprehensive plans.

10 VISION 2040: people - prosperity - planet," page 33, April 24, 2008, http://psrc.org/projects/vision/pubs/vision2040/vision2040_021408.pdf

11 VISION 2040: people - prosperity - planet," page 33, April 24, 2008, http://psrc.org/projects/vision/pubs/vision2040/vision2040_021408.pdf

12 Note: 100 percent means the indicator is the same as it would be for base year 2000. For example, Accessibility of Activities by Transit under the Metropolitan Cities Alternative is 200 percent. Therefore, the amount of accessibility for that alternative is double what it would be for base year 2000.

13 Note: For each geographic area, the mode share and average time data refer to "trips attracted to" the geographical area; the vehicle miles traveled and delay data refer to "roadways within" the geographical area; and the accessibility data refers to "people living within" the geographical area. See Appendix 3C - Transportation Demand Model Output Data.
** Accessibilities represent the percentage (xx% of 100%) of the region's employment that is accessible by the average household within the allotted time frame and mode (i.e., a 10-minute walk, 20-minute bicycle ride, or 30-minute transit ride) within the region.

14 Executive Order 07-02: http://www.governor.wa.gov/execorders/eo_07-02.pdf

15 http://www.ecy.wa.gov/pubs/0801025.pdf

16 http://www.ecy.wa.gov/pubs/0801025.pdf

17 http://www.ecy.wa.gov/pubs/0801025.pdf

18 King County Global Warming Initiative. http://www.kingcounty.gov/exec/globalwarming/transportation.aspx

19 As of November 28, 2007, 740 Mayors had signed the U.S. Conference of Mayors Climate Protection Agreement http://www.mayors.org/USCM/home.asp and http://usmayors.org/climateprotection/ClimateChange.asp

20 http://www.seattle.gov/light/aboutus/. Accessed Jan. 3, 2008.

21 http://www.portseattle.org/downloads/about/commission/SWS_20070605_6_Supp.pdf

22 http://www.portseattle.org/downloads/community/environment/greenpowerpoint.pdf

23 http://www.portseattle.org/seatac/

24 http://www.soundtransit.org/x8.xml

25 http://www.epa.gov/otaq/ngm.htm

26 Executive Order 07-02: http://www.governor.wa.gov/execorders/eo_07-02.pdf

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