The unanimous vote from the Southern California Association for the 25-year Regional Transportation Plan provided a moment of consensus and celebration for the government officials and advocates who worked on it for four years, a feeling that could fade as it now needs to be put into play by local agencies and paid for by citizens.
Still, the plan, a blueprint of priorities created by the group's 191 cities based on the federal, state and local funding the region expects to see, represents a huge shift in emphasis.
"They basically took the way that the region has been going and flipped it over on its head," said Amanda Eaken, a deputy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, the environmental group that lobbied for many of the plan's provisions.
While freeways and other automotive needs remain at the top of the Southern California food chain, the plan calls for nearly half the region's transit money—$246 billion—to go to public transportation, making the car a narrow leader instead of a devouring force.
"The old ways of simply relying on freeways and automobiles has reached the point of diminishing returns," said Denny Zane, a former mayor of Santa Monica who now heads Move LA, a transit advocacy organization. "We're not going to abandon it, we're going to maintain it, but we need alternatives."
Just before the plan's passage, SCAG Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata attempted to play up its significance.
"Fifteen years ago when I was working here in this region, I couldn't tell you we had many choices, the car was it," Ikhrata said. "Now, we do have choices."
In an attempt to make that money more meaningful, the region would aim for a 60-percent increase in housing near public transit. It also has projections of 4.2 million new jobs in the region, and plans to keep public transit within a half-mile of nearly all of them.
"This plan looked at land use for the first time since we started doing planning," Ikhrata said.
And while it remains a small part of the overall funding, money to make biking and walking easier would be more than tripled, from $1.8 billion to $6.7 billion, by reducing emissions and encouraging exercise.
The long-term plan is updated every four years by SCAG, whose council members represent more than 18 million people in Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura counties.
Wednesday's passage was largely a friendly formality, with contentious fights having taken place in earlier community and committee meetings. The plan passed by a unanimous show of hands among the 83 council members, and all 16 people in the public comment period prior to the vote spoke in its favor.
But even many supporters expressed misgivings about parts of the plan.
South Pasadena Mayor Michael Cacciotti, whose city has been locked in a long battle over an extension of Interstate 710, said it still places too much emphasis on freeways.
"We're just saying before you do any old outmoded highway projects, especially as people are getting older and don't want to drive, first implement and build mass transit projects," Cacciotti said.
Many expressed disappointment that the plan doesn't do more to upgrade Metrolink, the regional rail system that they say could spread Los Angeles's public transit push to the surrounding counties that lack options.
"I would have liked to have seen the Metrolink enhancements greater than what they have now," Zane said.
And virtually all agreed that receiving and raising the money the plan calls for would be a challenge, though they disagreed over whether it could be surmounted.
Peter Herzog, head of the Orange County Council of Governments, said he approves of the plan but sees "a huge financial problem."
"Of the 524 billion they want to spend there's about 290 billion that aren't there," Herzog said. "They have to find that amount of new money to make the plan that they currently have work."
But the region's voters have proven willing to tax themselves for transit even in difficult economic circumstances, most notably with LA County's Measure R, a half-cent sales tax increase that voters approved in 2008.
Large majorities in three other counties approved sales tax hikes at about the same time, allowing Southern California to build and rebuild at a time when projects around the country stagnated.