[ITE-SoCal] Planting Seeds for Active Transportation: Ways to Jump Start Active Transportation Infrastructure in Your City

Re-posted from the Institute of Transportation Engineers’ Southern California Section June 2012 newsletter. Read future and past newsletter on ITE SoCal Section: http://www.itesocal.org

Photo Credit: Tana Ball

The shift away from cars in Southern California (“SoCal”) is historic and provides planning and engineering staff with the opportunity to support active transportation in creative ways, which can be low cost and effective for infrastructure and non-infrastructure changes.

It may come as a surprise just how many people are already walking and bicycling in SoCal. According to the Southern California Association of Governments (“SCAG”), 21% of all trips in the SCAG region are completed via walking and bicycling. In addition, the average American is driving 6% less than in 2004, and 26% of adults aged 14 to 34 do not even have drivers’ licenses.[1] Today, more Americans rely on walking and bicycling for their everyday transportation needs for a myriad of factors: including: the shift away from single family detached dwellings, an increased awareness of environmental and public health impacts of driving, and the desire to live in walkable places with transit centered design.[2]

Unfortunately, safe bicycling and pedestrian networks are in short supply and a large portion of transportation projects focus on improving conditions solely for motor vehicles, such as roadway expansion designed to increase speeds and reduce congestion. This has led to the tragic fact that almost 25% of all roadway fatalities in the SCAG region are pedestrians and bicyclists, while only 1.3% of the transportation funding in SoCal is spent on walking and bicycling despite the broad support for these projects.[3]

Southern California cities have already been successful in capturing funding and developing active transportation infrastructure through (1) championing active transportation policies and (2) providing small investments through Safe Routes to School (“SRTS”) programs and grants.

(1)  A top down approach to active transportation policies garners the momentum needed to research and apply for additional resources.

  • Long Beach: The City Manager and elected officials empowered staff to aggressively seek federal funds for bicycle infrastructure and programs. It received a grant from the L.A. County Department of Health to pilot the first Bike-Friendly Business District program, which was created in conjunction with four business districts. The program increased bicycling, visitors, and new customers to local businesses, thereby turning bicycling skeptics into enthusiasts and brought significant media attention.[4]
  • Rancho Cucamonga: The City Manager’s office used a data driven approach to identify and focus funding opportunities for improving the health of lower income communities. Their approach helped leverage a Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities Grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that supports policies to promote healthy eating and active living.

(2)  Small investments in planning and implementation can be used to leverage additional grants and larger funding sources. Cities that implement SRTS programs and fund active transportation planning are more competitive in leveraging additional funds.

  • City of Riverside: The city’s Public Health Department collaborated with the city’s Public Works and Traffic Engineering Departments with Cycle 1 and 2 SRTS Non-Infrastructure Grants to present workshops to targeted elementary schools. Parents’ and stakeholders’ feedback at the workshops was used by City staff to prioritize infrastructure improvements around the schools to the tune of almost $300,000. Additionally, the city leveraged the Public Health’s SRTS NI project to apply for additional funding: SRTS, SR2S, HSIP, BTA, etc.
  • San Diego County: The County Health and Human Services Agency’s Healthy Works program granted planning and capacity building grants throughout the county. From the original five Safe Routes to School planning grants of $160,000, these cities then leveraged $2.5 million in federal SRTS grants.[5]

Many other cities in SoCal are taking innovative approaches to funding planning and implementation of active transportation. These are only a few examples of how small changes are able to produce significant results.

[1] Benjamin Davis, et al., “Transportation and New Generation: Why Young People Are Driving Less and What It Means for Transportation Policy,” U.S. PIRG Education Fund & Frontier Group (2012): accessed June 1, 2012, link;  Arthur C. Nelson, “The New California Dream: How Demographic and Economic Trends May Shape the Housing Market”, Urban Land Institute, (2011): accessed June 1, 2012, link; Also seeSafe Routes to School National Partnership Resource Center, http://www.saferoutespartnership.org/resourcecenter.

[2] See above; Cameron Kaiser, “Build Communities that require exercise,” The Press Enterprise, accessed Apr. 1, 2012, link.

[3] SCAG 2012 – 2035 RTP/SCS; America Bikes Resources, http://www.americabikes.org/2012survey.

[4] More on Bike-Friendly Business Districts: http://www.greenoctopus.net/ourwork.html.

[5] San Diego Association of Governments, San Diego Regional Safe Routes to School Strategic Plan, March 2012.

One Response to [ITE-SoCal] Planting Seeds for Active Transportation: Ways to Jump Start Active Transportation Infrastructure in Your City

  1. Pingback: Complete Streets Policies: Three SoCal Cities are in the Top 10 | Safe Routes to School in California

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