Does Santa Cruz proposed 42% fare hike trigger CEQA traffic impact analysis?

Santa Cruz Metro, which operates public transportation in Santa Cruz County, California, will vote on a proposed 42% fare increase for the Highway 17 bus later this month. This commuter express transports about 2% of those who commute “over the hill” from Santa Cruz County to Santa Clara Valley.

Highway 17 Express

Santa Cruz Metro staff estimate a ridership loss of perhaps 10%. I think this sounds optimistic, but let’s go with this figure for the sake of argument. With 85% of drivers riding solo across the Santa Cruz Mountains, that translates into 128 more cars on California State Route 17 every morning and the same 128 cars every evening.

I ran across the rules for a Traffic Impact Analysis as required under the California Environmental Quality Act. If I read this correctly, a Traffic Impact Analysis is required under California law for any project that generates:

  • Over 100 peak hour trips on any state highway.
  • 50 to 100 peak hour trips on any state highway operating at LOS “C” or “D.”
  • 1 to 49 peak hour trips on any state highway operating at LOS “E” or “F.”

Caltrans District 5, which has responsibility for State Route 17 in Santa Cruz County, has a Transportation Concept document for each highway in its jurisdiction. This concept guides planning and policy for that highway. Because of “geometric restraints” on the Highway 17 corridor (e.g. challenging mountain terrain, crossing multiple geologic faults), Caltrans policy document directs the agency to “focus on transit, TDMs, and intermodal facilities to reduce demand.

Highway 17 already operates at LOS “F” during peak hours. What constitutes a “project” under CEQA rules? Does an interregional bus route fare hike qualify? If Rob Anderson can file a CEQA lawsuit against the city of San Francisco for a bicycle plan, can Joe Citizen do the same for a bus fare hike?

One Comment

  1. Consider contacting an organization with deep pockets and plenty of lawyers like the Sierra Club for example. They would be able to say if it has grounds and may be interested in helping out. Cities seem to only respond to lawsuits unfortunately, especially if they are from organizations that have lots of money.

    A good outcome of a lawsuit, or threat of one, would be for them to agree to a 3rd party audit. Likely they are wasting huge sums of money and just need to clean up their house.

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