Budget Deal a bad one for biking
Sacramento lawmakers approved a budget this week that showed no explicit increase for the most efficient transportation investment: bicycling. They did make significant new investments in other elements of sustainable communities — public transit, affordable housing near transit, for example — but they failed to recognize the need for funding to retrofit our streets and roads into safer and more attractive places to walk and bike. Nevertheless, since bike projects are eligible for most transportation funds there is no shortage of funds available, just a crisis of priority.CalBike will continue to dedicate itself to this crisis in the coming years.
The budget included $15.6 billion for transportation. The Active Transportation Program, which supports pedestrian, bicycle, trails, and Safe Routes to School programs, remains at a steady $130 million, still less than one percent of the total transportation budget.
Sustainable transportation advocates hoped for an increase in bike funding from new revenues provided by California’s landmark cap-and-trade program that levies fees on carbon emissions, but we were disappointed. Of the $630 million (or 70%) of AB 32 cap-and-trade revenues to transportation-related projects programmed by the budget, none were dedicated to active transportation.
- $250M for High-Speed Rail;
- $200M for Low Carbon Transportation.
- $65M for Sustainable Communities; and
- $65M for Affordable Housing;
- $25M for Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program;
- $25M for Low Carbon Transit Operations;
This budget has made clear that state lawmakers don’t appreciate the huge role that biking can have in making our state healthier, safer, and more prosperous — all while reducing greenhouse gases. Still, there are billions of dollars available for bike improvements in general funds not specifically set aside for bikes. Our campaigns for bike funding will have to win funding from general funds not dedicated to bikes in order to build the infrastructure we need to triple biking by 2020.
The $65 million for “Sustainable Communities” is the first place to look. Active transportation projects are eligible for this fund controlled by the “Strategic Growth Council,” a multi-disciplinary committee of state agency executives. A portion of the $250 million in High-Speed Rail funds could be dedicated to active transportation access to the station. “Low Carbon Transportation” projects are intended to support electric cars and car-sharing but why shouldn’t some of that $200 million also support electric bikes, bike share, cargo bikes, family bikes, etc.? Those are the most efficient and low-carbon transportation choices.
The same is true for the overall transportation budget. The State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP), for example, provides nearly $4 billion for transportation, any amount of which could be used to support safe biking. San Francisco recently programmed $2 million of STIP money for a Chinatown “complete streets” program.
It’s also important to note that the “state transportation budget” represents only about half of what is spent on transportation in California. The other half comes from local sources: property taxes, sales taxes, bridge tolls, parking fees, and transit fares. We bike advocates have no shortage of funds available, just a crisis of priority.
This year we’ve focused on the better design aspect of our better bikeways campaign, a focus that will lead to a huge victory for protected bikeways by the end of the year. Next year we’ll refocus on getting bike money — billions of dollars over the next several years — from state sources and helping local advocates capture more local money for bike projects.