James Folmer, editor, Highland Community News

From the “Why didn’t we think of this before?” file:

The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), the largest metropolitan planning agency in the nation, is investing $2.7 million in new technology to reduce the number of miles we spend on freeways.

The Future Communities Pilot Program is a partnership between SCAG, the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Committee and the South Coast Air Quality Management District. Using enhanced data analytics, $1.2 million will support three pilot projects in the Inland Empire:

The city of Riverside will get the largest of the three grants, $499,700, to fund an Integrated Electronics Plan Solution, online software that automates community development-related permits and applications and reduces the need for clients to drive back and forth to the city.

Ontario will receive $418,200 for three pilot projects in its historic downtown. It will monitor and coordinate collection of commercial trash, create an integrated sensor network and provide incentives to reduce final-mile vehicle use around transit stops. This will involve a bike-sharing program, explained Steve Lambert of the 20/20 Network.

The County of San Bernardino will receive $297,242 to develop a software program that allows officers and judges to remotely submit, review, sign and store warrants, reducing the need to travel for court approval.

The pilot projects are expected to begin this summer and conclude by December 2020.

Some of the money comes from the gas tax increase that went into effect in November 2017. This makes sense. If were can keep more cars off the road, the cost of maintenance and expansion will shrink. Cities must put up 25 percent in matching funds.

Since home computers became ubiquitous years ago, telecommuting has been an option for many workers. As online shopping continues to grow, consumers have the option of avoiding traffic at the mall.

Californians drive more than 350 billion miles a year, according to Caltrans, mostly burning fossil fuels. The Inland Empire suffers some of the worst air pollution in the country because of all those cars and trucks chugging along Los Angeles freeways.  

Last year, 5 percent of car sales were zero-emission electric vehicles, so there is hope for the future. But that doesn’t reduce congestion. It is wise to use technology to reduce vehicle trips wherever we can.

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