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Posts from the "Pedestrian Infrastructure" Category

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Is Congress Trying to Put the Kibosh on TIGER Funding For Bike/Ped?

Philadelphia's bike/ped network was one of four recipients of exclusively bike/ped TIGER grants. (And no, four is not too many.) Photo: Phila. Ped and Bicycle Plan

Did TIGER spend too much money on bicycle and pedestrian programs? That’s the question Larry Ehl at Transportation Issues Daily is asking. After all, Congress appears to be encouraging USDOT to spend TIGER grant money on something — anything — other than bike/ped.

It’s right there in the 2012 transportation appropriation bill, which President Obama signed into law November 18. The TIGER section includes this mandate: “The conferees direct the Secretary to focus on road, transit, rail and port projects.” It doesn’t specifically say anything about bicycles and pedestrians, but reading between the lines, it’s easy to see what they mean. And as Ehl says, it’s a warning for USDOT to “tread lightly, or risk giving TIGER opponents more reasons to eliminate future funding for the program.”

Ehl suggests we “look at the actual numbers” and decide for ourselves:

  • TIGER I (Recovery Act) allocated $43,500,000 to two exclusively bike-ped projects.  That was about 3% of the $1,498,000,000 awarded and 4% of the 51 projects.
  • TIGER II allocated $25,200,000 to two exclusively bike-ped projects.  That was 4.5% out of the $556,500,000 awarded to capital projects and about 5% of the 42 projects. (TIGER II also awarded $27,500,000 for 33 planning grants.)
In addition to the four bike/ped projects TIGER supported, Ehl notes, there were “quite a few highway, transit and rail projects that included a bike-ped component, such as adding sidewalks.” He lists them all in his post.
Still, that’s 4.5 percent of all TIGER funds that went to exclusively bike/ped projects in the first two rounds. Considering that trips by foot and by bike make up about 12 percent of all trips, a 4.5 percent share of funding doesn’t seem like too much. In fact, it seems like it’s just barely beginning to balance out a transportation system that’s been far too skewed toward road projects for far too long.
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Transforming Tysons Corner: A High-Stakes Suburban Retrofit

This is the old Tysons Corner. Photo: Restonian

“That strip mall just got rezoned for high rise buildings.” “These auto dealerships are going to disappear.”

Those aren’t words you hear very often in suburbia, but if you’re hanging out in Tysons Corner, Virginia, you’d better get used to it. This office enclave, which sits dead center between Washington, DC and Dulles International Airport, is experiencing a rare and dramatic transformation – from traffic-choked “edge city” to walkable urban center.

Fifty years ago this area was dairy farms. But fueled by employment at the headquarters of several major defense contractors, Tysons is now the 12th biggest business district in the country, and the single biggest outside a major city. Even during the recession, office vacancy has stayed comparatively low at 14 percent.

The new Tysons Corner. Image: Fairfax County

Tysons is also a retail heavyweight, with the fifth biggest shopping mall in the U.S. And no wonder – it sits in Fairfax County, consistently ranked one of the wealthiest in the country.

But even with all these jobs and shopping opportunities, it lacks people. There are 105,000 jobs in Tysons but only 17,000 residents. Nobody lives there.

Almost four years ago, Time gave Tysons this back-handed compliment: “That it is also a strip-malled, traffic-clogged mess does not take away from the fact that it is one of the great economic success stories of our time.”

All of this presents a unique opportunity for planners. How do you take an existing business district — dysfunctional but also thriving in its own way — and re-fashion it into a real urban center? And how do you get community support for a project that’s going to mean decades of disruptive construction and the uprooting of much existing infrastructure?

Fairfax County planner Tracy Strunk admits that re-planning something this big is incredibly ambitious. While they looked to development along the much-lauded Rosslyn-Ballston metro corridor for inspiration, “You get a few blocks from Rosslyn station and you’re in single-family detached. This isn’t going to be single-family detached.”

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The Last Mile: How Bike-Ped Improvements Can Connect People to Transit

Whether it’s just a short walk down the street or a five-mile bike ride, the journey between home and station is a major factor in people’s decision to take public transit.

Bike-share can bridge the last mile for public transit. Photo: Flickr/Arlington Country

For the transit officials and livability advocates gathered at the Rail~Volution conference this week, that key piece of the journey is known as the Last Mile. Frequent service and affordable fares, on their own, won’t entice people to make that trip. The route to the station also has to appeal to pedestrians and bicyclists.

Every transit trip is a multi-modal journey, pointed out Alan Lehto, director of project planning for TriMet in Portland, at the start of a panel yesterday. “Everybody who rides transit is a pedestrian or cyclist on at least one end of their trip,” Lehto said. “Getting people to and from the station is fundamentally important.”

But that aspect of transit is often overlooked. In fact, look no further than Portland itself, Lehto said. In a recent study, TriMet evaluated all 7,000 bus and transit stations within the region and found major gaps in bike-ped accessibility. “We realized that 1,500 of those don’t even have a sidewalk,” Lehto said.

Ensuring that transit stations are served by adequate pedestrian infrastructure is the bare minimum required to connect people to transit. Making the Last Mile truly appealing takes more than laying down sidewalks and adding a few bike racks.

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Last-Minute Deal Preserves Bike/Ped Funding. But For How Long?

UPDATED with comments from Sen. Tom Coburn’s staff.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has relented on his push to strip Transportation Enhancement funding from the six-month surface transportation extension, clearing the way for Senate passage last night and a White House signature today.

Sen. Barbara Boxer says dedicated funding for bike/ped projects is preserved, though Sen. Coburn appears satisfied that Transportation Enhancements is dead. Photo: AP

In exchange for releasing his stranglehold on the Senate (and the estimated 80,000 workers that could lose their jobs, at least temporarily, if the FAA bill lapsed) Coburn will get to insert his language into the long-term bill, when this latest extension expires.

According to CQ Today, Coburn said, “We’ve got an agreement that the next bill will be an opt-out for people on enhancements.” James Inhofe, the top Republican on the EPW committee which wrote the bill, “seems to have played a key role in brokering the deal,” CQ Today reports.

After the vote, Boxer quibbled with Coburn’s description of what will be in the next highway bill. Boxer said she and Inhofe had worked out “reforms” in the transportation enhancements section of the bill and met with Coburn to discuss them before the deal was worked out.

“We felt he would be pleased with the reforms,” she said. “It gives flexibility, without doing damage to the important programs in there.”

Boxer said Coburn made clear that he was “not going to vote for any more extensions” but allowed the current highway funding extension to move forward. “There’s not an opt-out,” she said. “You’ll see what we did. But no, there’s no opt-out. . . . There’s still dedicated funding. It gives more flexibility to the states as to how they will use that funding… It’s flexibility for the states within the transportation enhancements program.”

Clearly, Boxer is in a tight spot, having to placate some of the most conservative members of the Senate while also satisfying the active transportation advocates, in her state and around the country, who have held her feet to the fire on saving dedicated funds for bike/ped programs.

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Coburn Blocks Quick Senate Vote on Transportation Extension

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) has placed a “hold” on the transportation extension, along with a bill to continue sanctions against Burma and to provide disaster relief to areas affected by Hurricane Irene and other storms.

Sen. Tom Coburn. Photo: TPM

When just one senator objects to a “unanimous consent” vote — the quickest way for the body to pass legislation — the leader has to allow for 30 hours of debate. Coburn has an amendment he wants to introduce, and he was concerned that Majority Leader Harry Reid wasn’t going to allow for amendments. Coburn’s action ensures that he will be able to bring his measure to the floor. The amendment, as we have reported, would eliminate the 1.5 percent of federal transportation funds that go to Transportation Enhancements, about half of which is spent on bicycle and pedestrian programs.

Reid isn’t happy about Coburn’s use of the hold to delay important legislation. “It’s a pretty good way to legislate around here, be a dictator and say either take this or leave that,” Reid was quoted as saying in a story by CQ.

In addition to his amendment to strip TE funds, Coburn wants to offer an amendment that would offset the cost of the disaster aid, so that it doesn’t add to the deficit.

As we’ve said, the votes will still go through, just more slowly. And while we at Streetsblog are no experts on the disaster relief bill, we think the odds look good that enough senators will be frustrated with Coburn’s insistence on slowing down the process that they will vote against his push to kill Transportation Enhancements.

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How Dangerous is Sen. Coburn’s Amendment to Kill Bike/Ped Funding?

The 12 programs that make up Transportation Enhancements. Source: National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse

For the last few days, we’ve been talking a lot about Sen. Tom Coburn’s crusade to remove bike/ped funding from the transportation bill — even just from the six-month extension that just passed the House and is on its way to the Senate. He’s determined to insert an amendment to take out the funds.

Ever the gentleman, Coburn had his office contact the Rails-to-Trail Conservancy, a principal supporter of Transportation Enhancement funding, since rail-trails are one of a dozen uses for the funds. Coburn’s office let RTC know that the senator would be introducing an amendment to eliminate TE funding.

Kevin Mills, vice president of policy at RTC, emphasizes that Coburn wants to eliminate the federal mandate to spend certain federal dollars on certain programs. There would no longer be dedicated funding for bike and pedestrian projects, but they would still be eligible for federal money. Without a federal mandate, however, many states hardly spend any money on active transportation at all.

Mills said that Coburn’s office left no doubt that the senator would do whatever it takes to force a vote on TE. Senate leadership is determined to pass a clean extension and wanted, like the House, to have a simple, amendment-free process. If leadership refuses to entertain Coburn’s amendment, many expect that Coburn will filibuster, though his office won’t explicitly say so.

If he does filibuster, all that means is that it’ll take 60 senators to bring the extension bill to a vote (without Coburn’s amendment). Bike advocacy groups are clearly worried about this possibility. But the facts are enough to give us hope.

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Boxer Confirms Bike-Ped Funding, Gang of Six Loves infrastructure Spending

At today’s hearing, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee celebrated the bipartisan consensus it has reached on a new transportation reauthorization – but details of that consensus are still not public. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) did confirm that dedicated federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian programs remains in the bill. Addressing LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa:

A full bike rack outside the Senate building where today's EPW hearing was held. Photo: Tanya Snyder.

You’ve worked with us on Safe Routes to Schools, because that’s so crucial, and we kept it, and bike paths, and we kept it, and recreational trails, and we kept it. Tough debates, giving here, taking there. But that has remained in the bill.

The reauthorization negotiations have been largely overshadowed by the ongoing talks over the debt ceiling. For a long time it appeared that if the debt talks had any impact on the transportation program, it would be to institutionalize the 33 percent cuts mandated by House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan’s budget. However, as Boxer mentioned a few times during today’s hearing, the outlook is looking brighter.

The bipartisan Gang of Six has a plan to cut the deficit and raise the debt ceiling. That plan calls for very little spending – but the one area they did see fit to spend on was infrastructure. The Gang of Six plan calls for the following:

Tax reform must be estimated to provide $1 trillion in additional revenue to meet plan targets and generate an additional $133 billion by 2021, without raising the federal gas tax, to ensure improved solvency for the Highway Trust Fund.

According to our sources, that additional revenue would stabilize the trust fund for the next 10 years.

The vote of confidence by the Gang of Six is encouraging and should be a shot in the arm to the Senate. If that debt plan passes, it could even give House Transportation Committee Chair John Mica enough political cover to raise the total price tag of his bill.

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Senate Staff Says Bill Maintains Dedicated Funding For Bike/Ped

We reported yesterday that the outline of the Senate bill appeared not to preserve dedicated funding for bicycle and pedestrian programs. It has come to our attention that the complete draft of the bill will include a hard commitment to bike-ped programs. Senate staff tells us that Sen. Barbara Boxer worked hard and was able to maintain her priorities in the bill, including dedicated federal support for bike infrastructure. More details will come out at tomorrow’s hearing on transportation in Boxer’s Environment and Public Works Committee, and we look forward to seeing a complete legislative draft soon.

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What Bipartisanship Hath Wrought: Zilch for Bike-Ped in Senate Bill Outline

Update 7/20: It has come to our attention that the complete draft of the Senate bill will include a hard commitment to bike-ped programs. Senate staff tells us that Sen. Barbara Boxer worked hard and was able to maintain her priorities in the bill, including dedicated federal support for bike infrastructure. More details will come out at tomorrow’s hearing on transportation in Boxer’s Environment and Public Works Committee, and we look forward to seeing a complete legislative draft soon. The rest of this article was written yesterday, before we received these assurances from staff.

The Senate EPW Committee just posted a transportation bill outline on their website, and despite previous assurances by committee chair Barbara Boxer (D-CA), there appears to be no dedicated funding for bicycling and pedestrian programs in the bill. The outline focuses on the consolidation of programs and streamlining project delivery, much like the House bill. The performance measures mentioned in the outline – while not necessarily a comprehensive list – don’t include emissions reductions, undoubtedly at the insistence of climate-denier Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), ranking member of the committee.

One of Chicago's celebrated new bicycling facilities, the Kinzie Street protected bike lane. Will any federal support for bike/ped projects remain after the next transpo bill passes? Photo: Josh Koonce/flickr

The outline confirms that the Senate is working on a two-year bill but does not include the dollar amount. “Consolidation” is the name of the game these days and the Senate plays along, making seven core surface transportation programs into five, including a new Transportation Mobility Program, which “sub-allocates” some funds to metropolitan areas, and a National Freight Program, which proponents of multi-modalism have long pushed for.

It preserves the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program, which funds some bike and pedestrian programs. Transportation Enhancements, another major way such programs are funded, will probably now be under CMAQ. It’s unclear whether the Recreational Trails Program will move to CMAQ as well. But although bike and pedestrian projects will still be eligible for funding, there appear to be no explicit funding guarantees for bike-ped projects, and how funding levels will shake out in the final analysis is anybody’s guess.

Like the House, the Senate bill offers states “the flexibility to fund these activities as they see fit” – which amounts to a revocation of the federal commitment to funding this work. Many states, absent a federal mandate, will spend virtually nothing on bike/ped infrastructure.

Bicycling advocates had asked for dedicated funding that doesn’t pit them against road projects, the same funding proportion as they had in SAFETEA-LU, and changes to Safe Routes to School. None of those features appear to be in this bill.

“It’s hard to know without seeing the details, but at first blush it doesn’t look good for bike and pedestrian issues,” said Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists. “Perhaps it’s to be expected that there’s nothing upfront in the language about protecting dedicated funding, given that it was a topic of some contention among the protagonists. But it’s pretty troubling to see no reference to any of the issues that affect cyclists and pedestrians – nothing about complete streets, nothing about dedicated funding.”

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T4America: Just Like Plane Crashes, Pedestrian Deaths Are a National Issue

Pedestrian fatalities from 2000 to 2009 near the high school I graduated from, in Philadelphia's inner suburbs. Map your own neighborhoods at Transportation for America's website.

Over the last decade, nearly 48,000 people were killed in the simple act of walking. Many of them were on streets built only to accommodate fast-moving cars, without safe places for people to walk or cross the street.

Transportation for America’s new report, “Dangerous by Design,” includes rankings of states and metro areas, but you can zoom in even more precisely on your neighborhood or your kids’ school. Check out their interactive map to find pedestrian fatalities and identify trouble spots near you.

And don’t stop there. T4America is encouraging everyone who supports safer streets to take action and tell Congress to preserve funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects.

If a jumbo jet went down every month, Congress would pass laws left and right. If a consumer product injured someone every seven minutes, the feds would shut down production.

Well, that’s exactly how many Americans are being killed and injured in the act of walking pedestrian-unfriendly streets, according to our report, out today. But in the case of pedestrian safety, our federal tax dollars actually go to build streets that are designed to be perilous to children, the elderly and everyone else.

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