Governor’s 2014-15 Budget is out – how did active transportation fare?

budgetpg1Governor Jerry Brown released his 2014-15 State Budget proposal earlier this month, and it looks like business as usual for funding walking and bicycling this year. In a budget given high marks for building the state’s fiscal reserves and finally allocating Cap and Trade dollars, and that includes $1.7 billion in new investments for transportation, it is disappointing to continue to see such a small amount for active transportation.

The Administration took a positive step for the climate by allocating $850 million in Cap and Trade auction proceeds toward programs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, of the $600 million designated to transportation (the remaining $250 million will fund energy efficiency and natural resources), none is specifically allocated to the Active Transportation Program. $250 million is for high-speed rail, despite the critical need to allocate dollars toward investments that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the near-term, such as safe infrastructure for walking and bicycling in communities across California.

Bicycling and walking infrastructure may get a portion of $100 million in Cap and Trade revenue through a new Sustainable Communities Implementation Program, which will be established by the Strategic Growth Council and awarded through competitive grants. Two other categories of Cap and Trade investment could also benefit active transportation indirectly – out of $50 million for rail system modernization, transit operators might elect to invest in station area upgrades to improve walking and bicycling connections to transit, and out of $200 million for low carbon vehicle rebates, incentives for bicycle travel could see a boost.

Ideally, more of the 2013 loan of $500 million in Cap and Trade funding to the General Fund should be repaid this year and could be allocated to the Active Transportation Program. Only $100 million of that loan will be repaid this year according to the budget proposal.

One small bright spot outside of the Cap and Trade allocation is a one-time boost of $9 million for the Active Transportation Program in repayment of past loans to the General Fund from the Bicycle Transportation Account and the Pedestrian Safety Account. Relative to $1.7 billion in new transportation investments, that $9 million is a meager increase and another reminder that active transportation is an afterthought when it comes to state transportation funding.

The 2014-15 budget proposal is disappointing particularly after all the effort that walking and bicycling advocates put in over the last 12 months toward developing the Active Transportation Program (ATP), working collaboratively with legislative and administrative staff on Senate Bill 99, and with the California Transportation Commission over the last several months on guidelines for the program. The ATP was conceived and sold on the premise that consolidating the old programs would create a single pot for significant new revenue from Cap and Trade funding, as a major step toward bringing active transportation into the mainstream of the transportation system. To not see that allocation come through in this budget year delays the transition to a transportation system that provides safe and active options for healthy, sustainable communities.

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