A busy legislative session resulted in more money for biking and walking infrastructure projects, as well as for bike share, and a huge win to extend California’s commitment to reduce climate change. It also showed where we need to increase our strength to win bigger victories for transportation equity. The 2016 session wrapped up in August, with some significant victories, as well as some losses.
$10 Million for the Active Transportation Program
This year, our champions in the Legislature fought hard for our ask, and secured $10 million in new Cap-and-Trade funds for the Active Transportation Program, the state’s only dedicated fund for bicycling and walking projects. CalBike and our allies have been pushing to amplify this critical grant program; we had, in fact been pushing to double it. At just $120 million per year, or $3.15 per capita, California is pretty far down the list among U.S. states in per capita bicycle and pedestrian funding levels. One of our suggested funding sources has been the state’s Cap-and-Trade Program, since this fund must go to greenhouse gas emission reduction. The additional $10 million allocated this year is only a small step toward helping California’s funding levels match its leaders’ rhetoric (though the special session could fix that—see below), but in another way it’s a hugely important victory, because it shows a growing recognition on the part of our government that bicycling and walking can play an important role in meeting California’s climate goals.
Bike Share Incentive Funding
Another significant victory is the inclusion of bike share as an eligible expense in the California Air Resources Board’s “Mobility Options” funding category, which also includes incentives for car-sharing and other clean transportation options in environmental justice communities. CalBike is developing a webinar with ARB staff to help agencies and organizations get access to those funds and share ideas about how bike share incentives can be most effective in providing clean transportation for disadvantaged communities. Contact Policy Director Jeanie Ward-Waller to learn more about the webinar.
Major Climate Change Bills Passed
CalBike supported several big climate bills that encountered huge challenges in the final month of session on their way to passage, including SB 32, which establishes a new statewide target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030. Several others ensure that environmental justice communities and low-income households are prioritized to receive the benefits of reduced pollution and funds raised from the Cap-and-Trade program, and all of them help to set the stage for big changes for transportation in coming years.
Work in Progress
Transportation Special Session Active Transportation Funding
Legislators were called on over a year ago by Governor Brown to address the state’s sizeable shortfall in infrastructure maintenance funding, and that discussion is now stretching out beyond the end of the 2016 session. Poor pavement is not just hard to ride on, it’s a terrible waste of tax money. Motorists pay more for maintenance when they drive on rough roads than they would in taxes to make the roads smooth, and waiting too long to repave a road costs many times more than repaving it before its condition is very bad. The latest proposal to address this backlog could provide more than $7 billion in new funding, including $80 million for active transportation. CalBike is working with our allies to direct some of that new money to planning complete biking and walking networks as part of our “Bikeways to Everywhere” campaign, and is also seeking a set-aside in the largest portion of that package to pay for the costs of biking and walking facilities as part of a Complete Streets approach to road maintenance. Our advocacy to significantly increase bike and walk funding will continue as the Special Session likely resumes in November, and possibly stretches into 2017.
AB 2509, a bill to clarify the law that allows bicyclists to ride side-by-side, was shelved for now; we are in discussion with the CHP on a more direct effort to improve the public’s and police officers’ understanding that people on bicycles may often use the full lane for safety.
And a Loss
AB 2796 (ATP Planning and Education Bill) Died
Biking and walking projects require even more planning than other kinds of infrastructure projects; and to be successful, infrastructure needs to be complemented by education and encouragement programs. Unfortunately, the California Transportation Commission has demonstrated a trend to prioritize funding infrastructure projects over planning, education, and encouragement grants that develop critical community support for projects. With our partners California Walks and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, we co-sponsored AB 2796 to set aside 10% of Active Transportation Program funding for planning grants in disadvantaged communities, and for education and encouragement programs like Safe Routes to School. The bill was held up in the final weeks of the session in the Senate Appropriations Committee, which prevented it from moving forward, but we’ll pursue an alternate strategy to have the provision adopted in the Transportation Special Session (see Work in Progress, above).