Feds Propose to Expand Opportunities for Biking and Walking to Transit

When it comes to infrastructure improvements that encourage more people to walk or bicycle to transit stations, how long will commuters be willing to travel? The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has officially answered that question, proposing a significant expansion of the rules governing how close bike-ped projects should be to transit in order to receive government funding.

6a00e551eea4f588340120a5b6138d970b_800wi.jpgThe BikeStation in Washington D.C., which provides parking and services for bicyclists who use transit. (Photo: U.S. DOT)

The FTA's new rules, released for public comment on Friday, replace the previous definition of the so-called "structural envelope" surrounding a transit station.

In the past, regulators had tended to use 1,500 feet as the distance which "most people can be expected to safely and conveniently walk to use the transit service." But the Obama administration, stating plainly that the current radius is "too short," has proposed expanding it to a half-mile for pedestrian improvements and three miles for bicycle projects.

In its explanation of the new proposal, the FTA wrote:

The most successful and useful public transportation systems have safe and convenient pedestrian access and provide comfortable waiting areas, all of which encourage greater use. ...

Distances beyond the walkshed of public transportation stops and stations may in fact be within the range of a short bicycle trip. Providing secure parking and other amenities for bicycles and cyclists at public transportation stops or stations can be less expensive than providing parking for automobiles.

The proposed regulation also codifies a U.S. DOT definition of "livability" that Streetsblog Capitol Hill took note of when it was first mentioned by Transportation Secretary LaHood: "If people don't want an automobile, they don't have to have one."

Public comments on the FTA's proposal can be filed here.