ARB Research Seminar

This page updated September 3, 2014

The Science Behind Sustainable Communities Strategies

Photo of Susan Handy, Ph.D.

Susan Handy, Ph.D., Director, National Center for Sustainable Transportation, University of California, Davis

October 07, 2014
Cal EPA Headquarters, 1001 "I" Street, Sacramento, CA



California's landmark Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Law (Senate Bill 375) ushered in a new era of regional planning. Passed in 2008, SB 375 aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through better coordination and alignment of regional transportation planning with local land use planning. Each of the state's eighteen Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) was charged with creating a "Sustainable Communities Strategy" (SCS) as part of their Regional Transportation Plan. The SCS contains land use, housing, and transportation strategies that, if implemented, would allow the region to achieve state defined targets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions from passenger vehicle use.

Rich conversations on best ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while addressing other important social, environmental, and economic priorities have been sparked in regions across California as part of the first round of SCSs. But what does the science say about the proposed strategies? This seminar will provide an objective review of the empirical evidence on how effective various transportation and land use strategies are at reducing vehicle miles traveled (and thus greenhouse gas emissions). In a multi-year project funded by the Air Resources Board, a team of UC Davis, UC Irvine, and University of Southern California researchers examined a total of 23 strategies ranging from car-sharing services to access to bus and rail stations to changes in land use. The goal of the project was to strengthen the technical underpinnings of SB375 and to gain a clearer understanding of data gaps and research needs moving forward. This seminar will outline some of the most promising strategies to help inform development of and potential improvements to the models, tools, and information used by Metropolitan Planning Organizations, local governments, and others for SB 375 implementation.

The scientific evidence for each strategy studied by the researchers is summarized in a series of policy briefs that are now available for download here on ARB's website.

Speaker Biography

Susan Handy, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of California at Davis, where she also serves as the Director of the newly established National Center for Sustainable Transportation - a consortium of leading universities committed to supporting federal, state, regional, and local agencies in improving the environmental sustainability of the transportation system through research, education, and outreach. Dr. Handy's research focuses on the relationships between transportation and land use, particularly the impact of land use on travel behavior, and on strategies for reducing automobile dependence.

Profesor Handy received her B.S.E. in Civil Engineering from Princeton University (1984), her M.S. in Civil Engineering from Stanford University (1987), and her Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of California at Berkeley (1992).

For a complete listing of the ARB Research Seminars and the related documentation
for the seminars please view the Main Seminars web page