Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Lessons for L.A. County from Active Transportation Program Funding Recommendations

On Monday, October 31st, the California Transportation Commission (CTC) released its staff recommendations for which projects should be funded by the California Active Transportation Program (ATP) Cycle 3, including 11 in Los Angeles County requesting over $25 million in ATP funding. Since the program’s inception, Investing in Place has been a strong supporter of our state partners, California Walks and the California Bicycle Coalition, to grow and strengthen ATP to make more funding available for walking, biking, and safe routes to school projects. We have also championed implementation efforts here in Los Angeles County to help more agencies access this critical funding program and deliver projects as quickly as possible.

It is always exciting to see great projects in Los Angeles County win funding, but we are even more inspired by the lessons from ATP that can be applied to our work in Los Angeles County.

Here are our takeaways from the funding announcement:

  1. We need to grow the pie. Great projects won funding, but many other great projects didn’t. Statewide, local agencies applied for almost four times the amount of available funding. Many more agencies observed how competitive the first two ATP cycles were and sat this round out. There is overwhelming demand for active transportation funding and we need to keep creating more of it at all levels of government: federal, state, and local. Here in Los Angeles County, it is the Metro Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP) that sets funding targets for each mode of transportation over the next several decades, and Investing in Place is working hard to ensure that a sizable portion of it goes to active transportation. Dedicated local funding is especially important for education and encouragement programs that need steady support in order to sustain their benefits.
  2. We need to align local and regional planning with state goals. ATP awards funding based on criteria including disadvantaged communities, safety, health, and mobility. New ATP guidelines require projects to document reductions in greenhouse gases in order to access funding from the state’s cap-and-trade program. The more the Metro LRTP and other local plans align with these goals and measure the benefits of local projects, the more competitive Los Angeles County projects will be for grant programs like ATP. We have some ideas on how to do this:
    1. Adopt Equity Opportunity Zones so that the projects we prioritize locally are the most competitive for state and federal funds and lift up communities with the greatest need, like the Southeast Cities, South L.A. and the Northeast San Fernando Valley;
    2. Adopt Vision Zero and analyze safety hot spots in the LRTP so that the communities most in need of safety improvements are clearly identified and can be provided with the technical assistance they need to access funding programs;
    3. Set clear goals in the LRTP to grow the share of trips completed by walking, biking, and public transit and prioritize the projects that will get us there; and
    4. Set clear goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving public health and develop tools that agencies can use to measure the benefits of their projects.
  3. We need to learn from local leaders. The City of Lancaster is emerging as one of the best examples in Los Angeles County of putting livability at the center of their public works program. In July, Investing in Place met with community members who participate in the First 5 LA Best Start program and heard just how much basic mobility improvements like safe routes to school, better crosswalks, and reliable buses matter for low-income families struggling to get ahead. The City of Lancaster has made active transportation and safe routes to school priorities and the funding has followed with multiple successful applications to ATP. Just this cycle, Lancaster won an additional $5 million for Safe Routes to School.

At Investing in Place, we see so much opportunity for Los Angeles County communities in continuing to promote and strengthen the California Active Transportation Program. Agencies in Los Angeles County have typically competed well when they have taken the time to align local plans and projects with state goals, invested in robust community outreach, and developed innovative project ideas. To find out how your community can benefit from ATP funding, reach out to me at jessica@investinginplace.org.

Highlights for Los Angeles County from ATP Cycle 3:

  • 70 projects from Los Angeles County jurisdictions applied for $181.3 million.
  • 11 of those projects were recommended to be awarded $25.3 million in funding from the statewide program, satisfying only 14% of the demand. (More projects from Los Angeles County will be awarded funding from the regional program administered by SCAG.)
  • All of Los Angeles County’s successful applications were for projects that benefit disadvantaged communities.
  • Five Los Angeles County jurisdictions applied for planning grants, of which only one was recommended for funding.
  • Nine Los Angeles County jurisdictions applied for non-infrastructure (education and encouragement) grants, of which none were recommended for funding.

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