Congress Files 2-Year Transportation Bill
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Posted by: Steve Lettau
An APBP Commentary
At a time when many cities are focusing on sustainability best practices and becoming the greenest city in America, the transportation bill's continued policy and funding focus on single occupant vehicles is unfortunate and possibly disastrous to America's future. Cities large and small can bank on bicycling and walking to provide the biggest bang for the buck - and the most jobs too. We have already seen how relatively small investments in sustainable transportation polices have benefited the local economies of cities like Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Seattle, Boston, NYC, Portland, OR, Boulder, CO and Charlotte, NC.
Congress missed a golden opportunity to serve all transportation system users when it eliminated the Senate's carefully crafted Complete Streets language. More than 400 Complete Streets policies exist in cities and states all across the nation, most passed in just the last two years. It is very likely that the long-term economic well-being of U.S. communities will hinge on adoption and implementation of Complete Streets policies.
APBP is extremely disappointed that dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School was eliminated. Full-time SRTS Coordinator positions are now discretionary. It is difficult to see how a wildly successful program like SRTS can continue to exist without dedicated funding or program managers at the state level. APBP strongly advocates that state Departments of Transportation continue to fund SRTS programs at the local level to ensure safety and health for America's next generation of transportation system users. If we truly value our children, we must invest in their future.
On the positive side, APBP congratulates Congress for recognizing that most of the innovative transportation policy is happening in cities. (A small portion of the funding filters down to the local level where it can be spent to increase rates of bicycling and walking.) Those cities, regions and states that embrace walking and bicycling as sound transportation policy will be able to directly access some funding for this purpose. Government bodies that wisely use transportation funding for walking and bicycling will reap rewards and serve as a model to those policy makers who've missed the myriad value of making such investments. The caveat here is that the bill enables state DOTs to opt out and spend the money themselves, thus robbing cities of a proven path to prosperity.
APBP also salutes Congress for retaining an official state bicycle and pedestrian coordinator position in the bill and asks state DOTs to retain or appoint full-time coordinators to ensure that citizens of their state can walk and bicycle safely to their destinations.
APBP believes that walkable and bicycle-friendly communities are the backbone of a strong and prosperous America. As we continue to analyze the 2-year bill, we will identify strategies APBP for members to use transportation funds most effectively. You must maximize your funding under the current law by 9/30/12, so get going on that. APBP will continue to talk with policy makers to point out the remarkable value of investing in walking and bicycling. America simply cannot afford the luxury of being a single-occupant vehicle nation.