Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Aligning Vision with Reality: 5 Things You Should Know About #MetroFundWalkBike

Since 2012, Investing in Place’s Jessica Meaney and partners including the LA County Bicycle Coalition, Prevention Institute, LA County Public Health PLACE program, and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership spearheaded the Los Angeles County Active Transportation  Collaborative to support improved policies and increased levels of funding for complete streets and active transportation – referring to non-motorized modes of travel like walking, biking, rolling, and skating. From there, #MetroFundWalkBike formed.

In Metro’s latest draft Active Transportation Strategic Plan, Metro estimated the active transportation need to cost between $737 million to $1.69 billion per year (see figure below) – this includes addressing first and last mile access to existing and future stations, implementing safer bikeways, and funding Great Streets.

ATSP estimates.JPG

Based on research and consultations with transportation experts, we estimate our actual active transportation investments – in safe routes to schools and fixing broken sidewalks especially – to cost $27 billion.

However, Metro has delayed the release of their draft Expenditure Plan to this Friday, March 18. The Expenditure Plan is the guiding document for Metro’s capital budget should a transportation ballot measure pass in November. While the spin so far focuses only on funding mega capital projects, we wanted to highlight the glue that holds all our mobility needs together – walking and bicycling.

Let’s not forget: the myth of everyone drives in LA is simply untrue. In reality, the ways we get around are changing. Half of all trips we make are less than three miles, almost one-fifth of trips are made on foot or bicycle, and one-third of LA County students walk or bike to school, higher than the statewide average of 26 percent. But with pedestrians and bicyclists consisting of 40% of traffic fatalities in LA County, we still have much more work to do – in education, empowerment, and advocating for safe bikeways, safe sidewalks, and safe routes to school in high-needs areas.

We appreciate Metro for creating a robust draft Active Transportation Strategic Plan. For example, Metro highlighted how installing bikeway infrastructure can reduce traffic-related fatalities, as seen in the image below from their draft Active Transportation Strategic Plan. It sounds simple – but implementing an ambitious and forward-thinking plan, especially on a county-wide scale, requires adequate funding… and visionary political leadership.

ATSP graphic.JPG

There is a glimmer of hope. In Measure R (2008), zero percent was allocated to active transportation in LA County. Contrast that with Alameda County – voters passed a 2000 transportation sales tax measure that allocated 6% to active transportation. In 2014, voters passed a second measure, ramping up active transportation investments to 12%. Aligning funding with demand is not only practical, but with enough partners at the table, it’s also politically winnable (see figure below compiled by Investing in Place).

ATSP 10 percent.JPG

With Metro’s Expenditure Plan release this Friday, will we see a commitment to connect sales tax revenue to building safer communities and a robust active transportation network as described in Metro’s Active Transportation Strategic Plan? Stay tuned…

In the meantime, to learn more about #MetroFundBikeWalk, see our “Greatest Hits”:

  1. Over the past years, dozens of organizations – many of them bicycling advocates pedestrian groups, public health experts, urban planners, and environmentalists – have advocated  for allocating 10% to active transportation in the next transportation ballot measure, demonstrating a strong demand for walking and biking infrastructure. – “Coalition Uniting to Support Funding for Active Transportation in Potential Ballot Measure”
  2. Many of our elected leaders – some including LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis and LA City Councilmember Mike Bonin (both Metro board members) – have publicly supported a more bikeable and walkable region – “Policymakers Discuss the Funding Needs for Active Transportation in Los Angeles County”
  3. The primary source of funding for safe routes to school, first/last mile, bicycle lanes, and walking infrastructure improvements in Los Angeles County remains to be only State and Federal funds – “Los Angeles County Awarded 34% of All Funds from 2015 CA Active Transportation Program”
  4. Nearly half of jurisdictions in Los Angeles County have a bicycle, pedestrian, or safe routes to school plan. Due to the lack of planning for active transportation, it means it has continually lost out and fallen through 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 – “Emerging Best Practice: Metro Identifies Annual Investments Needed for Active Transportation”
  5. Despite broad transportation planning responsibilities, Metro has historically limited itself to large projects and transit operations, overlooking fine-grain investments like first/last-mile access to transit, pedestrian and bicycle improvements, and safe routes to school – the investments that make our communities livable. We have best practice models for active transportation planning in the state that should be taken under consideration for Metro’s Expenditure Plan. For example, the City of LA stepped up to design a safe routes to school program that is a national model – “Prioritizing Areas of Opportunity in Los Angeles County with Transportation Policies and Investments”

Final thoughts: Walking, bicycling, and safe routes to school is not and never was a special interest… it’s a common interest. It is something we all do in some way or another to get around our neighborhoods and to fulfill daily needs – and, it’s a necessary mode of travel for some of our most vulnerable people (seniors, students, low-income, and individuals with disabilities).

How we fund visionary ideas for creating more bikeable and walkable neighborhoods has the potential to not only tackle today’s challenges (traffic-related deaths at an unacceptable level and safety of people walking and bicycling on our streets) but to also uplift our region, and our political leadership, as a model for the nation.

Interested in continuing the discussion? Investing in Place is hosting a partner meeting on March 29 1:30pm at the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center where we will learn more from Metro staff about their draft Expenditure Plan and get your feedback, ideas, and recommendations. The event is free, but registration is required for attendance.

Please email john@investinginplace.org for questions.


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