Councilman Smith Is Right: L.A. Should Fund Modes Based on Usage


4_22_10_graph.jpgSource: S.C.A.G.'s Year 2000 Post Census Regional Transportation Survey

In my Tuesday review of Monday's City Council debate on whether or not the city should use it's Measure R Local Return to fund bicycle and pedestrian projects, I mocked a statement by Councilman Greig Smith that because 10% of trips aren't by bike, the City shouldn't fund bicycle projects with 10% of Measure R funds.  I argued that because the city doesn't do bike counts, it's not possible to know for sure how many trips are by bike, but since we're talking about bicycling and pedestrian spending together the argument is moot anyways.  After all, everyone is a pedestrian.

Turns out there's more data out there than I knew.

In 2000, the Southern California Association of Governments completed a transportation survey to get better data for the Southern California area.  As you can see above, it turns out that almost 12% of trips regionally are done by what we call "people powered transportation," but what S.C.A.G. calls 'non-motorized transportation."  Unfortunately, this number is a low one when it comes to trying to get a good number for just the city.  S.C.A.G. includes less urban counties such as Riverside, Ventura and San Bernadino in with L.A. County so it's safe to assume that the number is higher in the city than in the entire S.C.A.G. region.

Second, the population most likely to use their feet or pedals to get around, immigrant and day-laborer communities are historically under-counted in surveys, especially those conducted by governmental organizations.

And last, this survey was done ten years ago.  More people are biking now than they were then.

The good news is, this survey will be updated this year after the census is completed so we'll have better data to work with soon.

So, Councilman Smith, you were right to point out that the 10% number for the "bike-ped. set aside" was pulled out of thin air.  The number should have been at least 12%.  We look forward to your amendment correcting this mistake when the full Council votes on this matter at next Tuesday's meeting.

Actually, scratch that.  Taking your logic from Monday, that modal funding should be based on modal split, "non-motorized transportation" is going to need a lot more than just 12% of the Measure R Local Return. S.C.A.G.'s 2008 RTP Non-Motorized Transportation Report says on page 20:

Out of the total expenditure of $569 Billion in the 2008 Regional Transportation Plan, $2.6 Billion is allocated for non-motorized projects.  Regional bicycle and walking travel represents 11.9% of all trips respectively, but represents less that 0.46% of all transportation funding in the region.

Wow!  It's going to take a lot more than 10% of the Measure R Local Return set aside to reach 12% with less than half a percent going towards cycling and pedestrian projects.  However, giving these modes a fare shake next week is a good place to start.