Update on SCAG’s Active Transportation Program

Image: Cover of Final FY 12-13 OWPIn May 2012 Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata announced that SCAG would create an Active Transportation Department at SCAG with three staff members and a $1 million dollar annual budget.  SCAG had just finished its 2012 RTP/SCS and had heard from hundreds of stakeholders about their desire to improve conditions for active transportation.

In July, it seemed like the announcement was coming true, when SCAG revealed that it had created the Active Transportation Department as part of its internal reorganization.  This announcement coincided with SCAG creating a new Active Transportation Subcommittee to guide the 2016 RTP process.   SCAG also took promising steps forward by signing a joint MOU with Metro to work on active transportation and SCS related planning projects.  In November, things still seemed to be moving along as SCAG issued a job posting for the new Active Transportation Management Position which sparked another round of enthusiasm as the applications started to file in.

However, the first few weeks of 2013 found SCAG in a difficult position.  SCAG is facing drastic budget reductions in operational funding from Caltrans and the FHWA.   Ironically, these budget cuts are happening at the same time that SCAG has been tasked with allocating the Transportation Alternatives Grant program under MAP 21 (previously Transportation Enhancements administered by each county).  There are also whispers that SCAG my be responsible for allocating state funding through the new Active Transportation Account in the Governor’s new budget.  So the question is, how will SCAG meet its SB 375 goals and these added responsibilities without a strong active transportation department?

Another question looms regarding the recommendations of the Active Transportation Subcommittee.  Will SCAG produce a policy framework with measurable goals and a solid implementation framework, or will SCAG merely create a loose set of ideas without a clear vision on how to proceed?  The National Partnership, in coordination with our regional partners, has submitted a draft Policy Framework and draft Work Plan that we would like SCAG to pursue.  We feel that the suggestions outlined in these two documents would position SCAG at the forefront of Active Transportation Planning and would give the agency the data and information needed to provide its members with clear investment scenarios for the future.

The National Partnership has been committed  to working with SCAG for the past three years and so we would like to propose several additional options that could help SCAG reach its goals of improving conditions for active transportation.

  1. Build on momentum in each county.  SCAG should expand the Joint Work Program with Metro to the other 5 counties.  By signing MOU’s with each county to implement Complete Streets Policies, Countywide Safe Routes to School Strategic Plans and to increase active transportation funding, SCAG could achieve its SB 375 goals and expand efforts region wide.
  2. Include increasing funding for active transportation at the state and federal level as a legislative priority.   SCAG has committed to triple funding for Active Transportation and should therefore work with State and Federal legislatures to make this promise a reality.
  3. Develop a Complete Streets reporting requirement for all future FTIP and STIP reporting processes so that the percentage of funding in each project can be tracked and monitored.  Other metrics around public health and safety could be included as well.
  4. Improve modeling and data collection.  SCAG received an increase in funding for its modeling processes as part of its OWP amendment in November 2012.  This additional funding should be used to improve data collection in each county and make improvements to the activity based model so that SCAG can accurately predict how investments in bicycling and walking will reduce GHG emissions, improve public health, improve safety and reduce congestion.
  5. Convene a stakeholder working group to prioritize the Projects in the Active Transportation Work Plan. Given that SCAG may not be able to provide three full time staff with the budget cuts, SCAG should concentrate on regional activities that will support work at each of the CTCs.  These regional activities should be agreed upon by stakeholders including CTCs, cities, public health departments, and advocates.
  6. Prioritize any future funding increases in the OWP to fill the need for Active transportation staff as soon as possible.

We look forward to continuing our work with SCAG and invite our partners to get involved in moving the regional active transportation discussion forward in Southern California.  For questions or comments please contact Rye Baerg at (rye@saferoutespartnership.org).

One Response to Update on SCAG’s Active Transportation Program

  1. Pingback: SCAG to Approve 2013-2014 Budget: Support Funding for Active Transportation Planning! | Safe Routes to School in California

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