Amid the rising climate change concerns, California enacted Senate Bill 375 (SB 375) to tackle transportation greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. SB 375 requires Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) to develop a Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS), a regional transportation and land use vision plan, to reduce GHG emissions. Meanwhile, a local government can develop a Climate Action Plan (CAP), a non-binding, voluntary plan to reduce GHG emissions that may align with the regional SCS. Recent progress reports indicate California is not making sufficient progress to meet SB 375 emissions reduction targets, which raises important questions: (1) Are the transportation and land use strategies and targets in SCS plans reflected in the local plans to build sustainable communities? (2) Does the alignment of regional and local transportation and land use strategies mitigate GHG emissions through vehicle trip reduction? (3) How different are the effects of independent local action and alignment of local and regional actions on vehicle trip reduction? Through an in-depth content analysis of plans and policies developed by five MPOs and 20 municipalities and a quantitative analysis of the impact of local and regional strategy alignment on vehicle trip reduction over time, this study shows that the patterns of local and regional climate policy are diverse across the state, but poor alignment is not necessarily a sign of limited climate action at the local level. Cities with a long climate-planning history and the capacity to act innovatively can lead regional efforts or adopt their own independent approach. Nonetheless, there are clear patterns of common strategies in local and regional plans, such as active transportation strategies and planning for densification and land use diversity. Well-aligned regional and local level climate-friendly infrastructure appear to have the most significant impact on vehicle-trip reduction, on average a 7% decrease in vehicle trips. Yet, many local-level strategies alone, such as for goods movement, urban forest strategies, parking requirements, and education and outreach programs, are effective in vehicle-trip reduction. A major takeaway from this research is that although local and regional climate policy alignment can be essential for reducing vehicle trips, local action is equally important.

Publication Date


Publication Type



Planning and Policy, Sustainable Transportation and Land Use

Digital Object Identifier


MTI Project



Climate action planning, Climate change, Transportation emissions, Senate Bill 375 (SB 375), Greenhouse gas emissions reduction


Infrastructure | Transportation