White Paper: Sustainable Financing Tools and Strategies for Equitable, Community-Based Mobility and Transportation Solutions
This project will review, identify, and assess existing and possible future financing tools and strategies for creating, supporting, and sustaining projects and programs that provide localized, zero and near-zero emission, and community-scale mobility solutions to residents living in low-income and disadvantaged communities. This white paper fulfills two key objectives: (1) identify and summarize financing tools that have enabled community-scale mobility projects in low-income and disadvantaged communities based on examples of projects that have been financed (at least partially) by funding other than direct grants, and (2) identify and explore opportunities for financing tools and strategies that have not been tested in practice for mobility projects but show promise based on success stories from other sectors or applications in the research or policy literature. The purpose of this white paper is to help CARB, other state agencies, local communities, and community-based organizations identify potential tools and strategies that can fund or supplement state funding for these projects, given the high degree of demonstrated need for them and the limited, uncertain nature of California state funding.
In 2014, the California State Legislature appropriated a portion of Cap-and-Trade auction proceeds to CARB for Low Carbon Transportation projects that both reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and benefit the state’s disadvantaged communities. Since then, CARB has undertaken a variety of efforts to benefit low-income and disadvantaged communities using these Cap-and-Trade auction proceeds—which are deposited in the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF). Currently, there are two main mechanisms via which the GGRF supports clean transportation: (1) consumer- or household-based vehicle ownership incentives, and (2) community-based mobility incentives (community-based).
Community-based programs—including the Clean Mobility Options Voucher Pilot Program (Clean Mobility Options) and the Sustainable Transportation Equity Project (STEP)—aim to address community residents’ unique transportation needs, increase access to key destinations, and reduce GHG emissions by funding transportation needs assessments, community transportation planning, and clean mobility projects. CARB’s experience administering these funding programs has revealed that the funding need greatly exceeds available state funding from the GGRF. In addition, state funding sources alone may not provide communities with the continuity and level of flexibility they need to implement complex, long-term projects. Both Clean Mobility Options and STEP are significantly oversubscribed and lessons learned from the implementation of regional carsharing pilots reveal that these projects can be difficult to sustain after grant funding has run out. The funding currently covers only part of what is needed to operate beyond two years and meet the project requirement of running for at least four years in total. By the end of the second year, the project must have additional resources to cover expenses from operations, maintenance, outreach, marketing, and other overhead costs. This can be challenging for projects that serve very low-income communities and therefore cannot easily transfer the cost burden to users or utilize business models that private companies use in other markets.
CARB and other state agencies are eager to efficiently launch mobility projects that meet specific identified transportation needs while maximizing benefits. However, given limited and unpredictable state funding, it is clear that alternative financing tools and strategies are needed. This project would identify and summarize examples from other states, countries, and sectors that might inform innovative solutions that can be adopted in California and translate these to recommendations for next steps for CARB, other agencies, and policymakers.
III. Scope of Work
Task 1 – Examples of mobility projects with non-grant funding
The researchers should identify, review, and evaluate examples of shared mobility projects (such as carsharing, ride-hailing, micromobility [including scooter- and bike-sharing], microtransit, etc.) that have been financed (at least partially) by funding other than direct grants. While CARB is mostly interested in learning about successful projects and the conditions, policies, and mechanisms that enabled success, we also acknowledge the usefulness in evaluating projects that did not succeed and identifying the major reasons why. This review and evaluation should focus on funding and financing, but may also touch on other major challenges to help CARB and others fully characterize the set of challenges facing these projects, such as lack of ongoing community resources, inconsistent leadership, staff burnout, changing community needs, etc.
Ideally, the example projects should serve low-income or disadvantaged communities (or the justifiable equivalent of these communities if the project is outside of California). Examples may come from other states or countries, but important data about the context must be included, such as: local policies and processes that supported or enabled the projects’ successes or created barriers and challenges; key stakeholders and players and the roles they played in the project’s success; etc. If the information cannot be found in published literature, researchers will be expected to seek out informal informational interviews with the appropriate experts and may be required to compensate these experts for their time.
Example project-types of project characteristics that are of interest to CARB include (but are not limited to):
- Cooperatively owned/operated projects
- Hybrid approaches whereby a combination of co-op types are applied
- Co-funding to diversify funding sources (including with local governments/municipalities, the state, and federal government)
- Private sector financed pilots
- Peer-to-peer projects
- Business-to-consumer projects (the standard model for carsharing whereby a for-profit or non-profit owns a fleet of cars that customers can use).
In addition to project types of interest, CARB also has particular interest in how specific financing mechanisms could be deployed to support community mobility options. Example of such mechanisms include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Vehicle miles traveled mitigation banks
- Green banks
- Public-private partnerships
- Local transportation taxes
- Government bonds
- Economic stimulus programs
Task 2 – Innovative financing tools and strategies (from other sectors and/or supported by research/policy literature)
In Task 2, the researchers should explore, identify, and explain opportunities for financing tools and strategies that have not been tested in practice for mobility projects but show promise based on successful examples from other sectors. As with Task 1, these examples from other sectors can be based in California, other states, or abroad and should be accompanied with important information about the context that made it possible for these projects to succeed. Again, these projects should be financed, at least partially, by non-grant sources.
This task should also include in-depth discussions of any possible tools or strategies that have been explored in research or policy literature but have yet to be tested in practice. Tools and strategies of particular interest to CARB include Low Carbon Fuel Standard Holdback Credits Equity Pilots and the use of vehicle miles traveled mitigation banks in the California context. As noted above, CARB is also interested in the following, which may already exist and thereby can be covered in Task 1, but may be evaluated in Task 2 if examples in practice do not exist:
- Green banks
- Public-private partnerships
- Local transportation taxes
- GHG mitigation for other projects
- Bulk zero-emission mobility purchases
Task 3 – Conduct in-depth analysis of innovative financing tools and strategies
Based on the findings and outcomes from Tasks 1 and 2 and with input with CARB staff, the researchers will identify a small set of the most promising financing tools and strategies to investigate in more detail (e.g., the top two to three that have the strongest case studies and data to support their approach, with potential for replicability across disciplines). The specific elements of this detailed analysis will be decided in collaboration with CARB, but is likely to include the identification of challenges and barriers and potential solutions, cost, feasibility, scale-up potential, assessment of applicability in the California context, identification of appropriate political and geographical contexts, etc.
Task 4 – Provide recommendations for CARB, state agencies, policymakers, and others to make promising financing and funding tools available to California communities
Considering the findings and outcomes from Tasks 1-3, the researchers should develop a set of recommendations advising next steps for CARB, other state agencies, policymakers, and other key actors to pursue innovative financing and funding strategies for localized, clean, healthy, and community-scale mobility solutions to serve low-income and disadvantaged communities. The recommendations should also describe potential opportunities and challenges from the perspective of key actors to facilitate these entities taking action and overcoming known or expected barriers.
Beginning this fiscal year, 2021-2022, CARB will require its contracted research projects to embody racial equity components that reflect the policies, programs, and interests of CARB to achieve equitable and healthy sustainable community strategies that meet California’s climate goals. The equity components that we hope to see in the proposals that we receive through this solicitation are included in the deliverables listed below.
- Quarterly Progress Reports including public-facing updates to be posted to CARB’s website
- Quarterly Progress Meetings
- Informal monthly progress update meetings with the CARB contract manager
- Interim deliverable for Tasks #1 and #2 (to inform selection of in-depth analysis for Task #3).
- Draft white paper
- Final white paper
- Draft policy brief
- Final policy brief
- Seminar presenting summary of results
- Presentation summarizing findings at community meeting(s) or workshop(s) (if applicable)
- In addition to the above deliverables, the project must:
- Compensate any non-academic partners that are engaged in the course of the project
- Require that all researchers undergo a cultural competency training (examples include implicit bias training, racial equity training), given the project’s focus on disadvantaged and low-income communities. The proposal must include a cultural competency statement (which is not counted toward the 5-page page limit)
- Make any peer reviewed publications publicly available (please budget for this expense)
- Create, in collaboration with CARB, plain-language deliverables for the public (in multiple languages and formats)
- Additional deliverables to be determined in consultation with CARB staff
It is anticipated this project will be completed in 12 months from the start date, which may be sometime between February and June 2022. The estimated budget for this project is up to $100,000.
VI. Scoring Criteria
- Responsiveness to the goals and objectives outlined in the proposal solicitation (20 points)
The proposal should explain—in adequate detail and clear, understandable language—how the proposed project satisfies the project objectives. This contract should: identify and summarize examples of community-scale mobility projects that have been financed (at least partially) by funding other than direct grants; identify and explore opportunities for financing tools and strategies that have not been tested in practice for mobility projects but show promise based on success stories from other sectors or applications in the research or policy literature; conduct in-depth analysis of collaboratively selected innovative financing tools, and provide recommendations to CARB, other state agencies, etc.
- Policy relevance/benefits to the state (15 points)
The proposal should explain how the proposed project is relevant to and provides benefits to the state. Reviewers will assess if the proposal describes how the project will provide data, information, and/or products to CARB, and how those project outputs will help CARB accomplish its mission. Findings from this project will help CARB, other state agencies, local communities, and community-based organizations support ongoing and future efforts to bring localized, zero and near-zero emission, and community-scale mobility solutions to residents living in low-income and disadvantaged communities. This work supports of Assembly Bill 32, Senate Bills 375 and 350, and general state efforts to address both transportation equity, climate change, and air quality statewide.
- Work experience and subject matter expertise (20 points)
The proposal should demonstrate that the proposers have the work experience or subject matter expertise required to successfully carry out the proposed project as described. Additionally, the proposal should describe how the project will build upon previous relevant work that was funded by CARB, other regional, state, and federal agencies. The proposers should have knowledge of projects that bring innovative mobility solutions to various community contexts, expertise in innovative funding and financing strategies that can be applicable for these kinds of projects, or both.
- Expanding expertise (10 points)
The proposal should explain how the project incorporates multidisciplinary expertise or perspectives, includes non-academic partners or partners from smaller public universities/colleges, or provides opportunities to build skills and expertise for individuals from underrepresented groups. Reviewers will consider, for example, if the Principal Investigator or other key personnel are new to CARB contracts and/or if the team will bring in new talent that has not worked with CARB previously. Consideration will also be given to if/how the project proposes to provide mentorship opportunities to students or recent graduates from underrepresented groups.
- Explanation of technical or methodological approach (20 points)
The proposal should clearly explain the logic and feasibility of the methodology and approach to the project, spell out the sequence and relationships of major tasks, and explain methods for performing the work. The proposal should include a clear description and plan for how each task will be completed and how the proposer will approach collecting information that may not be found in published works (i.e., how the proposer will identify and engage with specific project managers or sponsors to learn about efforts not captured in published documents).
- Level and quality of effort and cost effectiveness (15 points)
The proposal should describe how time and resources will be allocated and demonstrate how this allocation ensures the project’s success. Proposal reviewers will evaluate, for example: if the objectives of the project can be met given this allocation, if there is adequate supervision and oversight to ensure that the project will remain on schedule, if time and cost are appropriately divvied up across different project tasks and stages, etc.
 For example, in 2020, STEP applications totaled more than five and a half times the available funding.