San Jose: LOS Exemptions for Walking

In the 1960’s, San José, CA, grew rapidly in automobile-oriented growth patterns until roadways became congested and undeveloped land more scarce. San José updated its transportation policy in 2005 to give priority to pedestrians, transit, and bicyclists in specific locations. Those areas included parts of the city zoned for higher densities, planned communities, and transit-oriented development. All proposed development, whether in a Special Planning Area (SPA) or not, had to evaluate whether it would substantially increase traffic congestion.

Traditional methodologies evaluate motor-vehicle delays at an intersection. Any proposed development (above a threshold size) that would result in a substantial increase in traffic must prepare a Transportation Impact Analysis (TIA). The new policy modifies how transportation-impact analyses and mitigations are conducted in SPAs. In addition to describing existing vehicular facilities, the TIA for a proposed development in an SPA must also identify the existence, status, and condition of pedestrians, bicycle, and transit facilities and systems. If a proposed development in an SPA creates a significant vehicle LOS impact, then the project must include transportation- system improvements benefiting transit, bicyclists, or pedestrians. San José defines a significant vehicle LOS impact as either: (1) causing the LOS at an intersection to fall below D; or (2) contributing the equivalent of 1% or more to existing traffic congestion at an intersection already operating at LOS E or F.

For projects that will produce one impact for up to 400 trips, the fee is $2,000 per trip; for two or more impacts for up to 400 trips, the fee is $3,000 per trip. For projects producing more than 400 trips, the fees are assessed during the California Environmental Quality Act analysis. The net effect of the policy is that when a development proposal would have significant impacts on identified Transit Corridors, Transit Stations, Neighborhoods, or Protected Intersections, automobile mitigation is replaced with improvements for pedestrians, transit, or bicyclists.

This material is the product of a partnership between America Walks and Sam Schwartz Engineering. Visit here for more information on the partnership.