Caltrans has released its initial proposal (part 1, and part 2) for how to use the federal MAP-21 transportation bill funds. Currently they are showing $93 million for active transportation, which is short of the $106 million received in fiscal year 2012. They have appointed an 18 member working group to prepare legislative recommendations for a bill to be introduced in January. The only active transportation members serving on the working group are Laura Cohen from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and me (Deb Hubsmith) from the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.
· Assembly Speaker John Perez released a marker bill at the end of August to start a public discussion about how California should spend its $3.5 billion in federal transportation funds each year. We applaud the Speaker for making this discussion public. This bill includes funding for Safe Routes to School but also still includes some of the MAP-21 language about potential fund transfers. The Speaker’s office has said they will be asking for comments this fall to reintroduce a revised bill in January. That’s a great opportunity for all of us to have input.
· The California Transportation Commission will be allocating a “lump sum” of funding to Caltrans and regions during their meetings on September 25 and 26. This will effectively set transportation policy in California for the next 6-12 months.
It’s critical that our 130+ organizations continue to work together, as the discussions will continue for at least a year about the MAP-21 funding in California. We will be sending periodic updates and calls to action on how you and your organization can get involved. This fall will be the time when everyone is writing legislation to be introduced in January for how California will implement MAP-21. It’s critical that we “hold the line” for the MAP-21 bill and retain level funding for walking, bicycling and Safe Routes to School, which is only 3 percent of federal transportation funds, while these modes represent 15 percent of trips and 27 percent of fatalities.
There is also discussion about how gas tax revenues are dropping, and the state of California needs to raise additional funds through future legislation for transportation to meet current and future needs. There are several potential means to do this: cap and trade revenues from our climate law AB32, reformulation of the gas tax or raising the gas tax, creating fees for vehicle miles traveled, and/or reinstating a statewide vehicle license fee. As special interest groups and the state formulate proposed policies for new revenues, it’s critical that we be at the table as an active transportation movement to ensure that we get our fair share of the pie, which is way more than 3 percent. This discussion about future revenues is the time to set the bar high and go for what we need.
Active transportation is critical for California’s future and is in line with existing state policies related to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, advancing health equity, and increasing opportunities for physical activity to reduce obesity and related health care costs. Investing in walking and bicycling is also critical for safety, particularly in lower-income communities. Overall, investing in active transportation will save the state of California money, create jobs, and build safer and more livable communities.
California has been a leader in the past for active transportation. It’s incumbent on all of us to continue to propel our vision; we can’t rest on our laurels.
We have an opportunity and need to organize more and network at the Pro Walk/Pro Bike conference in Long Beach next week – if you’re there, please introduce yourself to me and talk with others from California about this campaign to advance active transportation funding. Also, join us in downtown Los Angeles on Wednesday 9/26 as partners from seven Counties in Southern California come together to discuss Safe Routes to School. RSVP for that event today. We’re also excited that the next Safe Routes to School National Conference will be in Sacramento next August. If we continue our momentum and partnership, we can succeed with our goals.
We’ve created a new section of our California website (saferoutescalifornia.wordpress.com) that will be continually updated with developments on this effort, so please check there regularly for news and information. This is the beginning of a big and ambitious campaign – we look forward to working together to achieve our mutual goals.