Ballot Measure Report : How Much Walk/Bike Funding Is Needed?

Editor’s Note: This is the third installment of LACBC’s Ballot Measure Report, which shares news from the front lines of our campaign to win dedicated funding for biking and walking in Los Angeles County’s next transportation ballot measure. Follow campaign updates on the LACBC blog or on Twitter at #metrofundwalkbike. For more background, read our first and second Ballot Measure Reports.


 Constituents share why they want Metro to fund walking and biking at a July 2014 Metro board meeting.

Over the past several years, LACBC has worked closely with our partners at the Safe Routes to School National Partnership and Investing in Place to call attention to the critical lack of funding for walking, biking, and safe routes to school in Los Angeles County. Despite walking and biking making up 19 percent of all trips and 39 percent of people killed in traffic collisions, these modes only receive one percent of transportation funding. These striking facts highlight the problem, but we haven’t known just how much money is needed to make Los Angeles County a safe and convenient place to walk and bike, until now.

This week, at Metro’s Planning & Programming Committee, staff will present their response to a July 2014 motion directing the creation of an Active Transportation Finance Strategy. This motion, championed by board member (and Los Angeles City Councilmember) Mike Bonin, instructed staff to set goals for active transportation safety and accessibility, determine how much funding is needed to meet those goals, and report back with an inventory of existing and new revenues that could be used to meet this need. While this sounds like a straightforward task, establishing performance measures and using them to set investment levels is actually a relatively new approach to transportation planning.

What will it take to make Los Angeles County walkable and bikeable? According to Metro, between $11.0 billion and $29.5 billion over 20 years. LACBC and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership independently calculated needs of $20 billion over 30 years, so Metro’s new report validates our initial assessment.

What does this number mean? Metro calls it “a preliminary high-level estimate of the cost to build out a high quality active transportation environment throughout Los Angeles County.” In transportation planning, it is common to have a list of unfunded projects (“unconstrained long-range transportation plan”) to help identify priorities for future revenues. As new funding becomes available, planners look at these lists and determine which projects should move from dream to reality. Historically, the lack of local bicycle and pedestrian planning has kept active transportation on the sidelines in funding scenarios. For the first time in Los Angeles County, we have a funding target to aim for, despite not having a complete bicycle and pedestrian plan for all 88 cities in the county.

This needs assessment is not a commitment to future spending by Metro. It would be unreasonable to place the entire burden of filling this funding gap on one ballot measure or one agency. Just like other transportation projects, a combination of local, regional, state, and federal funding will be needed to fully fund active transportation in Los Angeles County. As pointed out in the report, Metro does not own or operate most of the public rights-of-way where biking and walking improvements would be made. The Active Transportation Finance Strategy is intended to help Metro align its own funding decisions with intended outcomes, namely a Los Angeles County where walking and biking are safe and convenient transportation options. This report is a promising indication that Metro is beginning to embrace a more holistic approach to its countywide transportation planning responsibilities that is focused on outcomes and creating the resources and partnerships needed to achieve them. We’ll be looking for this approach to be reflected in the draft ballot measure expenditure plan set to be released in March.

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