“There’s no money for this bicycle project,” a city official may say.
Don’t believe it.
California governments spend more than $24 billion on transportation each year. Most of that is generated by your city or county; about half or less, depending on where you live, is generated by the state or federal governments. Not nearly enough of it is spent to make bicycling an easier choice for people.
Below is a thorough but not quite exhaustive list of places where you may find funding for bicycle projects. Most of this is adapted from work prepared by Ryan Snyder Associates.
The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act sets the framework for spending federal transportation revenue until 2021. It includes the following programs:
Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP)
The Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) aims to achieve a significant reduction in traffic fatalities and serious accidents through the implementation of infrastructure-related highway safety improvements.
Recreational Trails Program
The California State Parks and Recreation Department administers Recreational Trails Program (RTP) funds. RTP annually funds recreational trails, including bicycle and pedestrian paths.
Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)
States receive individual allocations of LWCF grant funds based upon a national formula, with state population being the most influential factor. States initiate a statewide competition for the amount available annually.
Community Development Block Grants (CDBG)
The CDBG entitlement program allocates annual grants to larger cities and urban counties to develop viable communities by providing decent housing, a suitable living environment, and opportunities to expand economic opportunities, principally for low- and moderate- income persons. Bicycle and pedestrian facilities are eligible uses of these funds.
Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program (RTCA)
The Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program is the community assistance arm of the National Park Service. RTCA provides technical assistance to communities in order to preserve open space and develop trails.
The Active Transportation Program (ATP) is the only significant source of funds dedicated to increasing bicycling and walking in California. At $120 million per year, it represents approximately one percent of the state’s annual transportation budget. ATP funds bike and pedestrian infrastructure projects, educational and promotional efforts, safe routes to school projects, and active transportation planning. The state awards half of the funds through a competitive grants process. Forty percent goes to metropolitan agencies to distribute and ten percent goes to rural areas. At least 25% of all funds must benefit residents in disadvantaged communities.
Transportation Development Act (TDA) Article 3 (SB 821)
TDA Article 3 funds-also known as the Local Transportation Fund (LTF)-are used by cities for the planning and construction of bicycle and pedestrian facilities.
Office of Traffic Safety
The California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) seeks to reduce motor vehicle fatalities and injuries through a national highway safety program. Priority areas include police traffic services, alcohol and other drugs, occupant protection, pedestrian and bicycle safety, emergency medical services, traffic records, roadway safety, and community-based organizations.
AB 2766 Subvention Program
AB 2766 Clean Air Funds are generated by a surcharge on automobile registration. Air quality management districts allocate funds to cities according to their proportion of the region’s population for projects that improve air quality.
Per Capita Grant Program
The Per Capita Grant Program is intended to maintain a high quality of life for California’s growing population by providing a continuing investment in parks and recreational facilities. Specifically it is for the acquisition and development of neighborhood, community, and regional parks and recreation lands and facilities in urban and rural areas. Per Capita grant funds can only be used for capital outlay. They may be used for bike paths and trails.
Roberti-Z’Berg-Harris (RZH) Grant Program – Proposition 40
Funds for this grant program are to be allocated for projects pursuant to the Roberti-Z’berg- Harris Urban Open Space and Recreational Grant Program for a variety of uses related to parks and recreation needs. Bike paths and recreational trails are eligible uses of this money.
Wildlife Conservation Board Public Access Program
The Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) provides grants for the development of facilities for public access to hunting, fishing, or other wildlife-oriented recreation. These monies can be used for trail head development, boardwalks, among others.
Sustainable Transportation Planning Grant Program
The Sustainable Transportation Planning Grants are awarded by Caltrans to help a jurisdiction do an unusually important and difficult plan to improve sustainable transportation.
This grant program, administered through the California Coastal Conservancy, funds the acquisition, planning, design and/or construction of projects that increase or preserve coastal access. These grants may be used for trail or bike planning and construction that improve or maintain coastal access.
Resurfacing and Repaving
Local jurisdictions should take advantage of opportunities to add bicycle lanes and other markings upon resurfacing and repaving of streets. While other lanes are re-striped, the bike facilities can be painted as well. This requires close coordination with the Planning or Community Services Department and Public Works so that low cost bicycle upgrades are not left out of street maintenance projects.
Bridge and Highway Tolls
Most road tolls may be used to support bicycle projects as long as the projects support travel in the corridor where tolls are charged. Most tolls have specific programs set aside to support bicycling and walking, and most also have general support for roads that can be used to improve them for bicycling.
Future road widening and construction projects are one means of providing bike lanes, pedestrian improvements and trails. To ensure that roadway construction projects provide appropriate measures where needed, it is important that an effective review process or ordinance is in place to ensure that new roads meet the standards and guidelines presented in this master plan. Developers may also be required to dedicate land toward the widening of roadways in order to provide for enhanced bicycle mobility.
Impact Fees and Developer Mitigation
Impact fees may be assessed on new development to pay for transportation projects, typically tied to vehicle trip generation rates and traffic impacts generated by a proposed project. A developer may reduce the number of trips (and hence impacts and cost) by paying for on- or off-site bikeway improvements that will encourage residents to bicycle rather than drive. In-lieu parking fees may also be used to contribute to the construction of new or improved bicycle parking facilities. Establishing a clear nexus or connection between the impact fee and the project’s impacts is critical in avoiding a potential lawsuit. Local jurisdictions have the option to create their own impact fee and mitigation requirements.
Benefit Assessment Districts
Bike paths, bicycle lanes, bicycle parking, and related facilities can be funded as part of a local benefit assessment district. However, defining the boundaries of the benefit district may be difficult since the bikeways will have citywide or regional benefit. Sidewalks, trails, intersection crossings and other pedestrian improvements can also be funded through benefit assessments.
Property Taxes and Bonds
Cities and counties can sell bonds to pay for bikeways, pedestrian facilities, as well as any amenities related to these facilities. A supermajority of two-thirds of voters in that jurisdiction must vote to levy property taxes to repay the bonds.
Business Improvement Districts
Bicycle and pedestrian improvements can often be included as part of larger efforts of business improvement and retail district beautification. Similar to benefit assessments, Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) collect levies on businesses in order to fund area-wide improvements that benefit businesses and improve access for customers. These districts may include provisions for bicycle improvements such as bicycle parking or shower and clothing locker amenities, sidewalk improvements and pedestrian crossing enhancements.
Bicycle lockers and automated bicycle parking could be paid for with a user fee. Not knowing how much revenue the fee would generate, this funding source would require an alternative backup source.
Parking Meter Revenues
Cities can fund various improvements through parking meter revenues. The ordinance that governs the use of the revenues would specify eligible uses. Cities have the option to pass ordinances that specify bicycle or pedestrian facilities as eligible expenditures.
Maintenance of bicycle paths and recreational trails could be paid for from private funds in exchange for recognition, such as signs along the path saying “Maintained by (name)”. In order for this to consistently work, a special account could be set up for donors to pay into.
Cities and counties may spend general funds as they see fit. Any bicycle, pedestrian, or trails project could be funded through general funds and then matched with other funds.