Ding, dong… LOS is dead. At least as far as the state of California is concerned.
Level of Service (LOS) has been the standard by which the state measures the transportation impacts of major developments and changes to streets. It is basically a measurement of how many cars can be pushed through an intersection in a given time. If a project reduced a street’s Level of Service it was considered bad — no matter how many other benefits it might create.
Now, thanks to legislation passed last year and a yearlong effort by the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR), California will no longer consider “bad” LOS a problem that needs fixing under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). OPR today released a draft of its revised guidelines [PDF], proposing to substitute Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) for LOS.
In short, instead of measuring whether a project makes it less convenient to drive, the relevant question is now whether a project contributes to other goals, like reducing greenhouse gas emissions, developing multimodal transportation, preserving open spaces, and promoting diverse land uses and infill development.
“This is exciting,” said Jeffrey Tumlin, principal and director of strategy at Nelson\Nygaard. “Changing from LOS to VMT does away with a contradiction that applicants currently face under CEQA. The contradiction between the state’s greenhouse gas reduction requirements and the transportation analysis requirements is no more.”
This revision in state law promises many positive changes.