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Vehicle Miles Traveled Metric

Council Policy 5-1 passed unanimously on February 27, 2018.

Policy Documents, VMT Evaluation Tool, and Other Links

Policy VMT Tool
Council Policy
Handbook Other Resources

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San José is a unique place, playing a vital economic and cultural role within North America. San José is fortunate to be the largest city in Santa Clara County and Northern California.

Intended Outcomes for the City of San José

  • Promote environmental sustainability
  • Support transit, bicycle and pedestrian mobility
  • Simplify the environmental review process
  • Facilitate the implementation of the City's General Plan

In 2013, the State of California passed Senate Bill 743 (SB 743), which mandates that jurisdictions can no longer use automobile delay – commonly measured by “level of service” – when doing transportation analysis under CEQA. Rather, the State has issued guidelines suggesting using a more holistic metric that can better support smart growth – called “vehicle miles traveled.” The City of San José began crafting new policy to implement this change in January 2017. After months of research, analysis, modeling, and community outreach, the City Council voted on a new Transportation Analysis Policy, 5-1, on February 27, 2018

San José is a unique place, playing a vital economic and cultural role within North America. San José is fortunate to be the largest city in Santa Clara County and Northern California.

The Envision San José 2040 General Plan advanced longstanding policies of growth management and environmental sustainability. It established a framework to enhance job growth and create great places throughout San José oriented for people, not just automobiles. Like many large U.S. cities, San José is in transition from its suburban development past to a future that includes opportunities for a more robust public life. The General Plan also envisions development in places that are next to amenities (e.g. restaurants, grocery stores, parks, entertainment, etc.) and transit and away from well-established neighborhoods where cars are a necessity.

Traditionally, the City of San José has measured vehicle delay at intersections to determine a new development’s transportation impact on the environment. When intersections were impacted, the solution often involved expanding intersections. Today, San José’s roadway network is largely built out and there is no room to expand roads. We need new measurements and tools to enhance mobility and help realize the General Plan’s vision of a vibrant and livable city.

The State has recognized the limitations of measuring and mitigating only vehicle delay at intersections and in 2013 passed SB 743, which requires jurisdictions to stop using a Level of Service (LOS) measurement for CEQA transportation analysis. The State’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) has issued guidelines for jurisdictions to consider using Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) instead.

Vehicle Miles Traveled, or VMT, measures the amount and distance people drive by personal vehicle to a destination. Typically, development projects that are farther from other, complementary land uses (such as a business park far from housing) and in areas without transit or active transportation infrastructure (bike lanes, sidewalks, etc.) generate more driving than development near complementary land uses with more robust transportation options.

The City of San José is now implementing this change as part of a larger effort to realign how we measure transportation impacts with the kinds of transportation investments we encourage.

We welcome your feedback and input on this change. Please fill out our comment form, email us at vmt@sanjoseca.gov, or join us at a community meeting.

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