Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Emerging Best Practice: Metro identifies annual investments needed for Active Transportation

This month we are excited to champion the efforts of Metro policymakers and staff to develop a high level cost estimate to build out a high quality active transportation environment throughout Los Angeles County.

The staff report recommends annual investments for active transportation to be: Low ($549M), Medium ($860M) and High ($1.5B).

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What is active transportation? It includes things like safe route to school, sidewalks, bicycle lanes, first and last mile investments.

Why is this a big deal? Out of the 89 jurisdictions in Los Angeles County only about 40 of them have either a bicycle, pedestrian or safe routes to school plan. And typically the transportation funding process involves looking at existing project lists in plans, totaling up the amount and then seeking funding to address the need. Due to the lack of planning for active transportation, it means it has continually lost out and fallen thru the cracks – we see the impact of this in safety numbers (close to 40% of roadway collisions are people walking and bicycling) and the quality of our walking and bicycling infrastructure, particularly in low income communities where roadway fatalities for people walking and bicycling spike in high numbers.

What has been the trend for funding active transportation in Los Angeles County and what are the opportunities on the horizon? The 2009 Metro Long Range Transportation Plan allocated less than 1% of all the region’s transportation funding to these most critical and universal forms of travel. And don’t believe the tired, played out song – Nobody walks in LA, as that couldn’t be farther from the truth in this region, where close to 20% of the trips made in Los Angeles County are done on foot or bicycle (2009 National Household Travel Survey) and a region where 34% of students walk to school!

Over the course of the next year we have the opportunity to dramatically change this, and thanks to Metro’s funding estimates there is a benchmark to guide and inform this process.  This spring, Metro will develop an expenditure plan for a potential November 2016 Ballot measure that many estimate will generate close to $122 Billion dollars over the next 40 years for transportation.  So as these critical funding allocation of public funds are addressed, having this report will inform this decision.

Why are we calling this an emerging best practice? Many regions in California lack planning efforts for safe routes to school, first/last mile, walking and bicycling investments. Metro is potentially leading the way to help the region understand the overall countywide effects of active transportation investment over time. And their methodology is one other counties now have the chance to learn from, in order to inform their own benchmarks both through policy and funding.

How did this happen? One of the best part of this emerging best practice is it truly represents a multi year collaborative effort between cities, Metro, community based organizations, elected officials, public health leaders, the philanthropic community and more.

Investing in Place is especially grateful to our partners: Metro Board and Staff, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition for their efforts in advancing this data driven framework forward.

What’s next? Taking this information working with partners throughout the region to identify a funding plan to translate planning efforts into real change for a walkable and bikeable Los Angles County for all.

Hungry for more? Check out these recent blog posts by the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition:



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