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Efficient Transportation
Updated May 2013

Sustainability Best Practice Area

Transportation is the largest generator of greenhouse gas emissions. Reducing the number and length of vehicle trips and engine idling reduces those emissions. Efficient transportation systems also conserve fuel and reduce travel costs and expensive road repairs.



  • Assess the long-term mobility (the ability for people to get around) needs of the community, including the efficient movement of people and goods.
  • Update transportation models to reflect all types (or modes) of transportation, such as walking, bicycling, private vehicles, commercial vehicles, buses, trains and other forms of transit.
  • Include transportation mitigation measures for new development which enhance all modes of travel rather than only focusing on automobile delay or speeds.
  • Develop short and long-range community transportation goals, objectives and policy statements and include all appropriate goals, objectives and policies in the circulation element of the agency’s general plan.
  • Develop and include a realistic long-range transportation and land use scenario (or diagram) for local and regional growth in the circulation element of the agency’s general plan and other local land use plans (such as specific plans and project development plans), consistent with a regional Sustainable Communities Strategy, if appropriate.
  • Collaborate with other agencies (such as cities, counties and metropolitan planning organizations) to share transportation-related information, coordinate planning goals and processes, and take advantage of opportunities to combine and leverage resources.
  • Make reducing vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) a high-priority criteria in evaluation of policy, program, and project proposals and alternatives.
  • Adopt a policy requiring limitations on idling for commercial vehicles, construction vehicles, buses and other similar vehicles, beyond the requirements of state law, where feasible.
  • Implement programs to reduce “incident-based” traffic congestion, such as expedited clearing of accidents from major traffic arteries, airport traffic mitigation, etc.
  • Develop a financial plan that covers life-cycle costs related to the development, maintenance and operation of current and future transportation facilities and services (such as transit service).
  • Identify funding sources for implementing transportation plans.
  • Implement transportation planning strategies that consider demand management solutions for transit, bicycle and walking growth equally with strategies to increase automobile capacity.


  • Implement Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) for surveillance and traffic control, such as synchronized signals, transit and emergency signal priority, and other traffic flow management techniques as appropriate, to improve traffic flow and reduce vehicle idling.
  • Install signal priority technology in agency transit systems (such as buses) to reduce number of stops and idling.
  • Ensure that traffic lights have sensors to detect bicycles.
  • Install roundabouts in lieu of signalized intersections as a way to improve traffic flow, reduce accidents and reduce greenhouse gases.
  • Improve intersection safety through pedestrian countdown signals and high visibility crosswalks.
  • Identify opportunities for infrastructure improvements such as High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV), High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes and dedicated bus rapid transit right-of-ways and coordinate with regional and state agencies when appropriate.
  • Encourage and/or construct infrastructure for electric vehicle charging and natural gas vehicle fueling for agency vehicles and the community.
  • Develop a non-motorized connectivity plan (complete streets) to create a path and roadway network and make sure that bicycle paths and pedestrian walkways connect to neighborhood destinations, schools, parks, light rail stations and essential services.
  • Include bicycle, pedestrian and transit facilities in public works projects, where appropriate, as a component of a local complete streets program.
  • Prepare a bicycle master plan to guide bikeway policies and development standards to make bicycling safer, more convenient and enjoyable for all bicyclists.
  • Prepare a pedestrian master plan to guide walkway policies and development standards to make walking safer, more convenient and enjoyable for all pedestrians.
  • Increase the number of bicycle lanes, lockers, racks, paths and signage throughout the community.
  • Reduce parking requirements for projects that link or emphasize alternative types of travel.
  • Use microwave technology, video detection and street embedded sensors to protect cyclists from buses, cars and motorcycles.
  • Use alternative or recycled materials for road paving (such as cold central plant recycling or cold in-place recycling) to reduce energy and greenhouse gas emissions from transport and material production/processing.

Agency Fleet

  • Adopt a policy that sets fleet efficiency standards for new agency vehicles.
  • Purchase or lease fuel efficient or alternative fuel vehicles, including zero or near-zero emission vehicles, to save fuel and money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Install low-draw emergency lighting in agency vehicles, allowing lights to be used without the engine running.
  • Consider purchasing bicycles for local travel by agency employees.
  • Install battery systems for vehicles with onboard equipment (such as boom tucks) to decrease truck idling while equipment is used.
  • Provide fuel saving tips to drivers of fleet vehicles.
  • Use Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and integrated software to control fleet vehicles, reduce misuse and increase efficiency through trip planning and location information.
  • Replace buses with smaller, more fuel efficient, buses for light-traveled transit routes.
  • Evaluate natural gas fueling infrastructure and sharing of facilities with other public agencies to help pay for installation and ongoing costs.
  • Establish a crew-based maintenance plan (such as with parks employees) instead of individual assignments, to create a “carpool effect” that lowers the annual miles traveled for maintenance staff.
  • Use technology options (such as digital service requests accessible by mobile devices) for field personnel to avoid extra trips back to the office.

Agency Employee Programs

  • Offer agency employees with incentives to use alternatives to single-occupant auto commuting, such as parking cash-out, flexible schedules, transit incentives, bicycle facilities, bicycle sharing programs, ridesharing services and subsidies, locker/shower facilities and telecommuting.
  • Develop a real-time ridesharing program that utilizes smart phone technology.
  • Incorporate a guaranteed ride home program as part of agency commuter trip reduction incentive programs.
  • Provide parking spaces dedicated to employees who use alternative transportation (such as walking, bicycling, bus, etc.) for the rare occasions they need to drive to work.
  • Implement a flexible work schedule for agency employees, incorporating telecommuting and modified schedules.
  • Establish a “bike barn” to enable agency employees to borrow a bicycle to use for local meetings.
  • Construct bicycle stations for employees that include bicycle storage, showers and bicycle repair space.
  • Offer employees incentives to purchase fuel efficient or alternative fuel vehicles.


  • Increase online permitting services to reduce the need to travel to agency offices for minor permits.
  • Consolidate offices that community members often visit at the same time (such as building permitting and environmental health permitting) to reduce vehicle miles traveled.
  • Encourage and facilitate the development of car-sharing, Dial-a-Ride (or a similar flexible-route transit service), bicycle sharing programs and other services that reduce the need to use a personal motor vehicle.
  • Implement variable demand pricing for on- and off-street parking facilities in order to discourage single-occupant-vehicle and peak travel, increase parking supply, business access and parking turnover.
  • Work with major employers in the community to offer incentives and services to increase the use of alternatives to single-occupant auto commuting (also called voluntary commute trip reduction programs).
  • Develop and implement voluntary agreements to encourage commuter trip reduction programs for new commercial developments.
  • Offer car and bicycle-sharing programs in the community.
  • Encourage or require parking preferences for those who rideshare or use alternative fuel vehicles in public and private parking lots, garages, and on-street spaces.
  • Adjust bus schedules to maximize ridership opportunities for residents.
  • Provide real-time bus arrival and departure information to riders at transit stops and through the web-based services and text messaging.
  • Dedicate revenues from fees and tolls to promote alternative transportation modes, to the extent permitted by law.
  • Consider the public health co-benefits in promoting use of transit and other alternatives to single-occupant vehicle travel.
  • Offer presentations to community groups highlighting the economic, health and environmental benefits of bicycling and walking.
  • Partner with health organizations to offer incentive programs to encourage bicycling and walking.
  • Partner with schools and other agencies to identify and implement safer travel opportunities for bicycles and walking between home and school (such as through Safe Routes to School Programs).
  • Create and distribute bike maps and “safe routes to school” maps to community members through collaborating with local businesses, service organizations and schools.
  • Include information on agency website about state and federal clean vehicle rebates.
The Institute gratefully acknowledges the following individuals who reviewed this best practice area and offered their comments:
  • Allison Joe, Deputy Director, Governor’s Office of Planning & Research
  • Betsy Strauss, Attorney at Law
  • Deb Hubsmith, Director, Safe Routes to Schools National Partnership
  • Julia Lave Johnston, Director of Land Use and Natural Resources Department, UC Davis Extension
  • Kiana Buss, Senior Legislative Analyst, California State Association of Counties
  • Liz Yager, Energy and Sustainability Manager, County of Sonoma
  • Pat Stoner, Local Government Energy Efficiency Statewide Coordinator, Local Government Commission
  • Paulo Morais, Energy Program Supervisor, Southern California Gas Company
  • Peter J. Brown, Project Manager, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
  • Peter Livingston, Energy and Sustainability Manager, County of San Diego
  • Ron Milam, Transportation Consultant, Fehrs & Peers
  • Ted Holzem, Senior Project Manager, Mintier Harnish
  • Teresa Roberts, Planning and Technical Support Division, California Air Resources Board

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