California's Three Transportation Entities: What's the Difference? – California Globe

California has three transportation-related entities: State Transportation Agency, California Department of Transportation, and the California Transportation Commission. What’s the difference?

State Transportation Agency

Government Code Title 2, Division 3, Part 4.5 established the Transportation Agency. It is contained in Section2 13975 to 13878.6. Chapter 1 sets forth the Agency’s general duties and powers. Section 13975 specifies that there is in the state government the Transportation Agency and that is consists of the Department of the California Highway Patrol, the California Transportation Commission, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Transportation, the High-Speed Rail Authority, and the Board of Pilot Commissioners for the Bays of San Francisco, San Pablo, and Suisun.

Section 13976 provides that the Transportation Agency is under the supervision of an executive officer who is the Secretary of Transportation and that the Secretary is appointed by the Governor and is subject to confirmation by the State Senate. He or she holds office at the pleasure of the Governor.


Government Code Title 2, Division 3, Part 5 established the Department of Transportation (Caltrans), which is set forth in Sections 14000 to 14463. Chapter 1 contains general provisions and Article 2 concerns administration. Section 14000 provides fifteen statements of legislative findings and declarations. Section 14001 specifies that there is in the Transportation Agency a Department of Transportation and that any reference in any law or regulation to the Department of Public Works is deemed to refer to Caltrans.

Caltrans is under the control of an executive officer known as the Director of Transportation under Section 14002. The director is appointed by the Governor, who is subject to confirmation by the State Senate, which is specified in Section 14004. The department also requires a Deputy Director of Transportation. The director organizes the department that is deemed necessary to segregate and conduct the work of the department.

Section 14007 specifies that Caltrans must be divided into at least five divisions, known as the Division of Highways, Division of Aeronautics, Division of Mass Transportation, Division of Procurement and Services, and the Legal Division. There must also be a Division of Rail pursuant to Section 14007.1, as well as a Spaceport Office pursuant to Section 14007.2.

California Transportation Commission

Government Code Title 2, Division 3, Part 5.3 established the California Transportation Commission is Sections 14500 to 14558. Chapter 1 contains general provisions and Section 14500 provides that there is in the Transportation Agency a California Transportation Commission (CTC). Pursuant to Section 14502, the CTC has 13 members, including nine members by the Governor with the advice and consent of the State Senate.

The commissioners hold office for four years. In appointing the commissioners, the Governor is required to make effort to ensure there is a geographic balance of representation and that there is a diverse membership with expertise in transportation issues. The commission has to organize itself into at least four specified committees. It is prohibited from having a committee to consider budget and fiscal matters.

The commission appoints an executive director who serves at their pleasure. The executive director administers the commission’s affairs and hires staff. The commission is required to hold public hearings.

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