Supervisors presented with transit, sustainability scenarios

Tulare County Association of Governments director Ted Smalley presents board of supervisors with growth scenarios from anticipated 2022 Regional Transportation Plan and Sustainable Communities Strategy

TULARE COUNTY – Every four years, the Tulare County Association of Governments (TCAG) updates their Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities strategy. At the Oct. 12 Board of Supervisors meeting, TCAG presented the board with three growth scenarios: the trend scenario, growth based on 2014 trends used as a benchmark for the other two scenarios; the Blueprint scenario, based on the 2009 Tulare County Regional Blueprint with a goal of increasing growth density by 25%; and the Cross-Valley Blueprint scenario, which follows the Blueprint scenario with an overall 5% higher density.

Supervisor Pete Vander Poel took interest in the Cross-Valley Blueprint, where densities are applied along a future Cross Valley Corridor—a study on 75 miles spanning three counties with rail connections linking the metro areas of Hanford, Lemoore, Visalia and Porterville and maximizing transit, bike and pedestrian links to provide access from all parts of the county to urban centers along the corridor. He asked TCAG director Ted Smalley if cities had shared any thoughts on the cross-valley corridor or the Cross-Valley Blueprint.

“It’s early, but the cross-valley corridor has gotten support,” Smalley said, “but there are votes for the others…the cross-valley corridor is a tough concept to be told in two or three minutes.”

Smalley said that the San Joaquin Joint Powers Authority will be taking lead on the rail project when it becomes feasible, and expects a great partnership.

“If your first image is Amtrak, that’s the wrong image, it should be more like a bus put on tracks…this is something of the future,” Smalley said. “In short, we’re going to increase the amount of bus service in lieu of rail.[Highways] 65 and 198 will be the primary corridors the bus will go down, exit the freeway to the transit center and then get back on the freeway. That is the new scenario that will be presented to the public.”

For the four-year update, a part of TCAG’s job is to take a look at “what-if’’ scenarios for growth. Smalley said what used to be a few hundred-thousand dollar investment 20 years ago has now turned into over a million-dollar document every four years. The state’s most recent large addition to the document was the sustainable communities strategy (SCS) element, which involves the blueprint scenarios.

“Anytime you hear the idea of, ‘let’s add something more to this,’ [it costs more money,]” Smalley said. “We’ve had to add electrification plans, environmental assessments, all kinds of different studies and it’s very expensive.”

The purpose of the SCS is to foster better coordination of transportation, land use and housing planning in the region, and describe a growth pattern that lowers greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

“We do not tell the cities or county what to do with land use,” Smalley said. “However, we are required to set this up and eventually, lots of carrots will be coming if the cities and county do conform to it.”

Of the three growth scenarios, the Cross-Valley Blueprint offered the most reductions across the board: land acres consumed, ag land acres consumed, habitat land acres consumed, total vehicle miles traveled, C02 generated per household, water consumed per household, energy consumed per household, household GHG reductions and transit ridership increases.

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