Will the 2016 ITIP continue to fund more highway projects or align with new sustainable laws to promote multi-modal transportation?

In October, the draft 2016 Interregional Transportation Improvement Program (ITIP) was released for public comment. The ITIP funds transportation projects that improve travel for the movement of people and goods across California. As noted in the 2016 ITIP, this is one of the many state funding programs that covers a wide breadth of areas including high-speed rail, intercity passenger rail, bus transit, active transportation, urban rail, and more.

Unfortunately in the past, we’ve seen a vast majority of ITIP funding go towards highway expansion projects that do include robust active transportation components such as complete streets. Without these types of meaningful active transportation improvements, we will not meet our  greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals or create livable, sustainable communities where everyone can walk or bicycle to key destinations such as work, school, and home. With limited state funds, it is critical that our state transportation dollars fund projects that promote increased physical activity and help us reach our climate goals.

In November, the Coalition for Active Transportation Leadership (CATL) submitted comment letter on the draft 2016 ITIP, calling for:

  1. Prioritization of projects that reduce GHG, improve public health, and meaningfully benefit disadvantaged communities: For the 2016 ITIP, transportation projects that achieve multiple co-benefits, align with our goals to reduce GHG, and meaningfully benefit disadvantaged communities should be prioritized for spending.
  2. Apply 2016 State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) performance indicators and cost-effectiveness criteria to reprogrammed projects in the 2016 ITIP: With limited state funding available, the 2016 ITIP has reprogrammed previous ITIP projects instead of  funding new transportation projects and elected to not use the 2016 STIP performance measures and cost-effectiveness criteria. We believe this is a missed opportunity to reprogram ITIP projects on their ability to move forward our climate goals. For the 2016 ITIP, we recommend using  the 2016 STIP performance measures and cost-effectiveness criteria to elevate the projects with the highest ability to reduce GHG.
  3. The 2016 ITIP should not fund any highway expansion projects: We are concerned that the 2016 ITIP continues to move forward capacity expansion projects despite how they could undermine our ability to meet our state’s climate goals. We recommend the ITIP, in the 2016 reprogramming and going forward, does not fund any highway expansion projects.  
  4. Projects should clearly state the improvements and how they will benefit communities: Projects should explicitly detail project impacts – both positive and negative in terms of environmental health and safety, as well as any benefits provided in terms of mobility, safety, and public health.

We submitted our comments in November and plan to continue our work with Caltrans and the California Transportation Commission (CTC) to further improve the 2016 ITIP. In the coming months, there will be public hearings on the ITIP so stay tuned for more information.

Final guidelines released for Affordable Housing Sustainable Communities Program!

On Monday, December 7th, the Strategic Growth Council released their final guidelines for the Affordable Housing Sustainable Communities (AHSC) Program. Since the summer, Safe Routes to School National Partnership worked tirelessly with Sustainable Communities for All (SC4A) and the Coalition for Active Transportation Leadership (CATL) to promote robust improvements and measures for active transportation to ensure the next round of AHSC funding increased walking and bicycling in communities throughout California.

In our comment letter with SC4A, we expressed our concern with the current model, CalEEMOD and the Transit and Connectivity Methods (TAC), due to the fact that it continues to undercount the true impacts from active transportation. We recommended the Air Resources Board (ARB) revise CalEEMod and the TAC to account for the higher GHG impacts of transformative projects such as protected bicycle lanes and other traffic calming measures that result in better connectivity, less people driving, and more people opting into bicycling or walking.

In comment letter with CATL, we recommended a number of improvements – specifically:

  1. A tiered approach to awarding points for projects that incorporated active transportation: We were grateful that the draft guidelines allocated 10 points for projects that incorporated active transportation improvements, but we wanted to see a scoring system that created incentives for more transformative projects. In our letter, we outlined a scoring system based on the level of innovation of the improvement – the projects that include more innovative active transportation improvements were awarded more points.
  2. 10 percent minimum floor for Rural Innovation Project Area (RIPA): We are supportive of the creation of RIPA, we believe this project area will ensure that rural areas receive funds from this program. However we believe 10 percent is not sufficient based on the need and opportunity in rural California. We asked the SGC to change the language from 10 percent target to 10 percent minimum funding floor to better express that 10 percent is only a minimum and not a maximum investment.
  3. Increase points for funds leveraged from the Active Transportation Program and traditional state transportation funding sources: We acknowledge that the draft guidelines already award 5 points for funds leveraged but we believe these guidelines can spur stronger coordination and planning from other state funding sources that reduce vehicles miles traveled and support community-driven projects.

Unfortunately, in our review of the final AHSC guidelines, we did not see significant changes or revisions from the draft guidelines. We will continue to meet with SGC staff to push forward these recommendations for future guidelines, and we will also attend the next SGC council hearing in December to express our recommendations to the council members. We encourage you to attend – see below for meeting details.

Date: Thursday, December 17th
Time: 1pm – 5pm
Location: California Environmental Protection Agency, Sierra Hearing Room. 1001 I Street, Sacramento, CA 94812

Click here for meeting materials. And if you can’t attend in person, click here to access the live webcast on Thursday, December 17th at 1pm.  

On the Road: SGC hosts Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Workshops across the state!

The Strategic Growth Council (SGC) is hosting workshops around the state so people can weigh in on the draft Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities guidelines. We encourage you to attend one of the workshops in your area and provide public comments to ensure the guidelines promote innovative, community-driven active transportation projects! See below for information on the the workshops:

OAKLAND
Date: Friday, October 23rd
Time: 9am – 12pm
Location: Elihu M. Harris State Building
1515 Clay Street
Oakland, CA 94612
Click here to register

Fresno
Date: Monday, October 26
Time: 1pm – 4pm
Location: Hugh Burns State Building, Room 1036
2550 Mariposa Mall
Fresno, CA 93721
Click here to register     

If you want to submit written comments, make sure you send your comments to AHSC@sgc.ca.gov by October 30th. The National Partnership will submit comments with our partners in the Coalition for Active Transportation Leadership (CATL) so stay tuned for our comment letter!

California Transportation Commission approved Cycle 2 Active Transportation Program awards!

CTC_logoThis Wednesday, the National Partnership and other allies attended the California Transportation Commission (CTC) meeting to weigh in on one of the most anticipated agenda items, the staff recommended Cycle 2 Active Transportation Program awards. In our analysis of the awards, we noted several things that we highlighted for the commissioners and staff:

  1. The Active Transportation Program (ATP) continues to be oversubscribed: For each cycle of the ATP, all the applications total to $1 billion dollars in need. Unfortunately, only $360 million dollars has been provided for each cycle. With these limited funds, the program cannot fund all of the good innovative projects that will increase walking and bicycling, improve public health, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We recommend the CTC and Caltrans work with the Administration to identify and secure additional funds to make this program robust.
  2. Almost half of the recommended projects were Safe Routes to Schools: We were pleased to see that 50 percent (including 15 percent non-infrastructure) of the statewide program’s funding and 55 percent of the small urban and rural program’s funding was recommended for Safe Routes to School projects. We worked hard to outreach and educate cities, counties, school districts, public health departments, and others about this opportunity so we are excited for all the communities who will benefit from these projects.
  3. Disadvantaged communities continue to be prioritized in Cycle 2: 88 percent of funds from the statewide program and 72 percent of funds from the small urban and rural program went to projects that directly benefit disadvantaged communities. We continue to support and advocate for this prioritization because these communities’ infrastructure has suffered from years of neglect and under-investment. We believe that the ATP provides a much-needed opportunity to ensure these communities can safely walk or bicycle to school, work, and other key destinations. And with two cycles completed, we recommend the CTC and Caltrans carefully analyze the awarded projects to ensure they are providing direct and assured benefits to disadvantaged communities.
  4. Planning and non-infrastructure programs did not compete well: Only 6 planning projects were recommended for funding, and only 23 projects included non-infrastructure programs. Planning is necessary for community to identify the need and address the gaps in their pedestrian and bicycling networks. The ATP should promote planning and infrastructure equally to ensure we create complete walking and bicycling networks in all communities. In the same vein, non-infrastructure programs are vital to Safe Routes to School. Community led encouragement and education programs ensure that children – and the greater public – support and use the new infrastructure. The National Partnership plans to partner with the CTC and Caltrans to ensure that Cycle 3 prioritizes planning and non-infrastructure.

After public comment, a couple of the commissioners responded to our comments. Some commissioners addressed the recommendation for additional funding with an ask for the active transportation community to work with other transportation advocates to enlarge the pie versus further slicing the pie to go to many different interests. However, other commissioners echoed the sentiment that we need additional funding for the program and should not fight over crumbs. As we are in the midst of a special session, this was a very timely conversation. A bill that we are sponsoring, ABX1-23, increases the amount of funding in the Active Transportation Program. The National Partnership will follow up with commissioners to discuss this bill and hear other ideas on how we can see more robust funding for the ATP either through the special session or other means.

Soon afterwards, the commissioners adopted the staff recommendations for Cycle 2. The National Partnership is excited to see another cycle of funding awarded for active transportation projects across the state of California and looks forward to working with the CTC, Caltrans, and our partners to ensure this program is robust and continues to increase walking and bicycling.

First conference hearings for Special Session on Transportation only focuses on roads and business interests

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In June, the Governor convened an “extraordinary session” to raise revenue for our roads and infrastructure.

We secured a number of wins in two bills, SBX1-1 and ABX1-23, that would put in place the following:  

  • Any road maintenance project funded by the State Highway Operation Protection Program or State Transportation Improvement Project must provide for complete streets improvements where feasible
  • Require comprehensive reporting on new revenue raised in the special session to show how the projects move the state forward on our ambitious climate, health, and equity goals
  • Increase the Active Transportation Program by $125 million
  • Prioritize disadvantaged communities in new funding for road maintenance   

Unfortunately, legislators could not come together in time to make a deal during the regular session. Now, the special session on transportation has moved into conference. Both the Assembly and Senate have selected members to work together in conference to create a deal that promotes bipartisanship and fixes our streets, highways, and bridges. The National Partnership attended both conference hearings in Sacramento and Ontario to encourage legislators to work together to move forward a deal that focuses on fix-it first infrastructure and invests in transit, walking, and bicycling so we can meet our ambitious climate, health, and equity goals. We also signed onto a coalition letter and statement of principles to further outline our recommendations for the conference committee.

Unfortunately, the first conference hearings were dominated by road and business interests who want to see this funding continue our status quo of building, expanding, and repair our highway and roads without considering our call to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Over the next couple of months, the conference committee will continue to meet and craft a deal that can be voted on in January by the entire legislature. We need more voices at the table calling for our legislators to ensure that this new funding does not fulfill status quo but instead helps us move forward on our ambitious state goals to reduce greenhouse gases and create sustainable communities with safe walking and bicycling for all. If you are interested in being a part of this conversation, please sign onto our comment letter and email chanell@saferoutespartnership.org to join our coalition and help educate our legislators on this important opportunity!

Strategic Growth Council Releases Draft Guidelines for Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities Program!

In preparation for the next round of Affordable Housing Sustainable Communities (AHSC) grants, the Strategic Growth Council (SGC) recently released updated draft guidelines to further improve the program to promote the creation of walkable and bicycle-friendly communities! With other partners in the Coalition for Active Transportation Leadership, the National Partnership provided input to ensure this round of grants funds projects that directly encourage walking and bicycling. Here are some of the changes we’re excited to report:

  • Infrastructure for transportation is now TWO categories. Now, there is sustainable transportation infrastructure which is transportation and transit capital costs which result in people switching from cars to roads. These investments can provide access to transit or further expand the bicycle/pedestrian network in the project area. And, there is transportation related amenities which are capital improvements such as bicycle parking or street trees that provide support for bicyclists and pedestrians. Creating two distinct categories for transportation will allow us to better track investments and support projects that create both infrastructure and amenities for walking and bicycling.
  • Quantifying greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from active transportation just got better because the guidelines now allocate less points for GHG reductions (30 points now, instead of 55 points, out of 100) and added 10 points for active transportation. Projects can receive a maximum of 10 points for capital improvements or programs that encourage the use of active transportation. This means that sustainable transportation infrastructure is eligible and transportation related amenities are not — which should create a further incentive for projects to investment in meaningful active transportation infrastructure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Parking for bicycles is a requirement for all affordable housing developments – there must be at least one secure overnight bicycle parking spot for every two units! And the updated guidelines limit parking costs as an eligibility for the AHSC grants, with the intent to phase out parking costs completely in the future. Funds will still be available for parking spaces for car share, electric vehicle charging, and zero emission vehicles.

These are just some of the highlights from the updated AHSC guidelines. We encourage you to read the guidelines and weigh in! The National Partnership will also continue to work with our partners and the SGC to ensure that these guidelines encourage robust bicycling and walking. Weigh in by attending the next SGC meeting (details below) or submitting written comments, which are due on Friday October 30th and should be sent to AHSC@sgc.ca.gov.

SGC Meeting

Date: October 15th, 2015

Time: 10am – 1pm

Location: CalEPA Byron Sher Auditorium 1001 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95812

2015 Legislative Recap: Wins! Next Step: Support #CompleteStreets in the Special Session!

Last week, Safe Routes to School National Partnership – in coalition with our partners – spent many hours advocating to legislators for stronger policies and additional funding to increase walking, bicycling, and ensuring children have safe routes to school. The legislative session ended last Friday, here’s the wins and the next step!

The Wins

  • SB 350 passed! In the final week, the National Partnership joined with others to support this landmark climate bill, which originally called for a 50 percent reduction in petroleum use, 50 percent increase in energy efficiency for buildings, and 50 percent increase in renewable energy – all by 2030! Unfortunately, oil companies launched a misleading campaign that resulted in the removal of the petroleum piece. But – as Natural Resources Defense Council and Coalition for Clean Air state – this is still a huge win for California. Dependent on the Governor’s signature, we now have ambitious targets for energy efficiency and renewable energy which will help us in our battle against climate change.
  • AB 8 passed! The National Partnership supported Assembly member Gatto’s bill to create an emergency alert system in response to fatalities or serious injuries caused by hit-and-run collisions. As we work with our partners and legislators to develop policies and funding to increase walking and bicycling in California, we know it is critical to ensure the safety of all users on the road – especially our children. This emergency alert system is yet another tool to ensure the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, and drivers.
  • AB 744 passed! The National Partnership supported Assembly member Chau’s bill to reduce parking requirements for affordable housing developments in transit priority areas. Reducing parking minimums in development areas with safe and convenient alternatives to driving such as walking, bicycling, and transit is a proven strategy to reduce driving and ensure our children – and our communities – have access to healthier ways to get to key destinations such as school and work.

Now, these bills will go to the Governor’s desk, either to be signed into law or vetoed. Both AB 8 and AB 744 have been vetoed before so now, it’s more important than ever to send in letters of support to the Governor’s office for AB 8 and AB 744. Stay tuned for action alerts from us to support both of these bills!

Next Step: Support #CompleteStreets in the Special Session on Transportation!

The special session on transportation did not result in a deal by the Friday deadline. Fortunately, normal rules do not apply to special session, which gives us more time to ensure that any deal that increases transportation revenues also gives Californians’ real transportation choices!

  • Take action TODAY to support two key bills, SBX1-1 and ABX1-23, in the special session. Click here to send your letter of support!
    • SBX1-1 will ensure that any road maintenance project will include complete streets and develops comprehensive reporting language to ensure that these funds will also move us forward on our climate, health, and equity goals.
    • ABX1-23 will increase the Active Transportation Program by $125M to develop walking and bicycling networks that will connect schools, shopping centers, and jobs. This bill also ensures that new funding for road maintenance will prioritize disadvantaged communities.

25 Days to Make Walking, Bicycling, and Transit a Priority

We have just 25 days to convince Governor Brown and legislative leaders to provide funding for alternative transportation, including public transit and bicycle & walking projects, in this year’s transportation funding package.

To aid in this effort, the California Transit Association has launched iTransit, a grassroots-style advocacy campaign designed to connect everyday Californians with their representatives in Sacramento to further promote the benefits of public transit and other modes of alternative transportation.  Using cutting-edge civic engagement software, iTransit makes it easy for transit riders and advocates to email, Tweet, and post on the Facebook walls of their state representatives in support of including alternative transportation funding in the work of this year’s special session.

If you:

  • Want better transit service?  Go to iTransit  and tell your state reps to support new money for public transit.  #iTransit #fundtransit
  • Believe walking, bicycling, and transit is key to healthier environment & economy. Visit iTransit  to support money for alternative transportation. #iTransit #fundtransit
  • Know that California thrives when all transportation modes work. Visit iTransit to urge your state reps to invest in all forms of transportation. #iTransit #fundtransit

We urge you – don’t delay, act now to promote iTransit!

Weighing in on guidance for cap-and-trade revenue

Last week, over twenty advocates – including the National Partnership – attended workshops across the state to give input on the concept paper for the second investment plan and the draft funding guidelines for agencies administering California’s climate investments. Both of these documents are important if we want to increase walking and bicycling and promote social equity statewide: The concept paper is the first step to developing a three-year investment plan for the Greenhouse Gas Emission Fund (GGRF). The concept paper will eventually become the three-year investment plan that the Legislature will use to determine future investments from GGRF in the state budget. And the funding guidelines provide direction for the vast number of State agencies, local transit agencies, and academic institutions that oversee funds from the GGRF.

For the concept paper, the National Partnership offered the following recommendations:

  • All transportation investments should contribute to climate, equity, and health goals: Ensure that all of California’s transportation investments, especially new investments, contribute to achieving California’s climate, equity, and health goals.
  • Discuss the implications of additional funding to the Active Transportation Program (ATP): Provide information to shows how additional funding to the ATP could be invested in larger grants that increase walk and bicycle network connectivity, provide safe routes to school, and improve neighborhood mobility.
  • Integration should be at the forefront: Discuss in-depth the need for California to achieve greater greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions and co-benefits through integration of sectors and strategies.
  • Provide a robust analysis of the Needs: Both the Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) Program and the Active Transportation Program (ATP) suffer from oversubscription due to the high need for these funding sources.
  • Expand Co-Benefits to show the many benefits from sustainable communities: The co-benefits from investments in sustainable communities go far beyond air quality and public health. Expand the co-benefits section to highlight safety, environment, and transportation benefits.
  • Protect against unhealthy land uses in residential communities: Include measures that will protect communities from harm.  Direct investment into projects and methodologies that reduce harm to communities.

For the draft funding guidelines, the National Partnership recommended the following:

  • Ensure a Meaningful and Robust Public Process: Prioritize community engagement and strengthen public participation for disadvantaged communities.
  • Expand GGRF Funds to include planning activities that will lead to projects that reduce GHG: Invest GGRF Funds in pilot projects that reduce GHG and elevate best practices.
  • Maximize GGRF Co-Benefits to Disadvantaged Residents and Communities: Increase housing and transit opportunities and provide robust technical assistance to disadvantaged communities.
  • GGRF Investments Should Not Directly or Indirectly Harm Disadvantaged Communities: Zero Emission Vehicles in DACs does not provide a meaningful benefit. Half mile proximity and zip codes as a proxies for benefit to disadvantaged communities is inadequate

Safe Routes to School National Partnership will continue to work with our partners to provide input to ensure that the investment plan and funding guidelines increase opportunities to fund and support active transportation and promote social equity. Keep checking our blog for more updates on this!

Comments were due on Friday, August 14th for the funding guidelines. However, the comment period is still open for the concept paper! Click here to submit comments – all written comments are due on September 1st.

Getting ready for Round 2 of the Affordable Housing Sustainable Communities Program!

In late June, the Strategic Growth Council (SGC) approved the staff recommendations for the first round of awards for the Affordable Housing Sustainable Communities (AHSC) Program. Out of 147 applications submitted, only 28 projects were awarded from the $120 million available.  However, with these awarded projects, it is estimated that we’ll see 723,286 metric tons in avoided greenhouse gas emissions – that’s the equivalent of taking 140,000 cars off the road for a year! And around 75 percent – or $92 million dollars – was awarded to disadvantaged communities. This is a huge step forward for these communities, which have suffered from years of underinvestment and neglect. Finally, around a quarter – or $32 million dollars – of AHSC funds went towards transit, walking and bicycling. These are big wins for California!

While there were big wins with the AHSC program, there were also places where the program could be improved to better support and integrate walking and bicycling into communities. For example, only 10 percent of the awarded AHSC projects went to active transportation!  In July, the SGC hosted two “Lessons Learned” workshops in both Northern and Southern California to hear from partners on what worked well and what could be improved. At these workshops, a number of groups – including the National Partnership – attended to suggest key changes to help the AHSC Program better implement its goals. Click here for more information on the Lessons Learned workshops!

For Round 2, the National Partnership recommends the following for the AHSC Program:

  1. Increased Transparency: Ensure the public understands how these projects successfully integrate affordable housing, active transportation, transit, urban forestry, green space and conservation by posting all applications and scoring evaluation criteria on-line.
  1. Creation of Technical Advisory Committee: Develop a technical advisory council of external stakeholders and key agency staff to guide the staff through the AHSC cycle. This will improve transparency and public participation.
  1. Remove key barriers to successfully fund transportation projects – specifically bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure – that will result in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG): Transportation and housing projects are planned and implemented at different scales and timelines, with different approval processes and funding constraints. Remove barriers such as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) clearance threshold requirement from transportation projects so strong transportation projects that reduce GHG can apply for AHSC funds.
  1. Maximize Co-Benefits on Community Identified Priorities: There are many benefits for projects funded from the AHSC program, such as improved air quality and greater economic development. These co-benefits should be considered along with GHG reduction and extra points should be awarded for projects that provide multiple benefits.
  1. Strengthen ICP to Better Serve Rural and Small Urban Communities: The current transit requirements in the guidelines exacerbate disinvestment and limits GHG reduction strategies outside of an urban context. The program should better address opportunities for transportation investment in rural, unincorporated, and small urban communities.
  1. Improve Modeling Tools to Better Quantify GHG reductions from Active Transportation: The current modeling tool for the AHSC Program does not distinguish between projects more or less likely to create mode shift. In addition, modeling for active transportation primarily focused on access to transit when most walking and bicycling that replace short trips does not involve transit. The current model needs to be updated to address these concerns or if the model cannot address these issues, the guidelines need to be updated to create scoring incentives based on the co-benefits above.  
  1. Leverage other state funding sources such as the Active Transportation Program (ATP): One of the AHSC’s enabling statues is to increase options for mobility, including the implementation of the Active Transportation Program (ATP). The guidelines should increase points for projects leverage funds from the ATP.
  1. Strengthen Community Engagement Provisions: The program should require applicants to explain what steps were taken to ensure public participation and explaining how the public participation process resulted in project proposal where community identified needs emerged and are meaningfully reflected in the projects.

The National Partnership worked with the Coalition for Active Transportation Leadership (CATL) to submit comments, click here to see the full recommendations for the AHSC Program. We are excited for this program and believe it can be a model for other state funding sources. We will continue to work with our partners and agencies to ensure that the AHSC is a robust program that supports all elements of healthy, equitable, and sustainable communities.

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