Advocates Push for Bike/Ped Funding From CA’s Cap-and-Trade Funds

A coalition of bike and pedestrian advocates are inviting organizations to sign on to a letter [PDF] asking the state legislature to recommend allocating $50 million of the state’s cap-and-trade revenue towards the Active Transportation Program. Currently, none of the $850 million in cap-and-trade funds are allocated specifically for walking and bicycling in this year’s budget.

Photo by Brian W. Knight from the Streetsblog "Kids + Cities Photo Contest, 2013"
Bicycles produce zero greenhouse gas emissions but get zero funds from cap-and-trade. Photo by Brian W. Knight from Streetsblog’s “Kids + Cities Photo Contest, 2013”

Caltrans recently released its first ATP call for projects, and applications are due May 21. Eligible projects support walking and bicycling, and must compete for funding that will be awarded according to a formula in the ATP guidelines, recently adopted by the California Transportation Commission. Applications are expected to request and amount exceeding the program’s current funding levels of $120 million per year.

Revenue from cap-and-trade, the system chosen by California to meet the requirements of the Global Warming Solutions Act, A.B. 32, must be spent on activities and projects that help meet its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. The governor’s proposed expenditure plan for cap-and-trade funds includes $100 million for the Strategic Growth Council for transit oriented development grants, which may include some bike and pedestrian infrastructure as part of larger projects. However, there is no cap-and-trade money specifically allocated to those modes.

The governor’s plan proposes an allocation of $250 million to high-speed rail, $200 million to the Air Resources Board for low-emission vehicle rebates, and $50 million to Caltrans to improve intercity rail, in addition to $250 million for other projects including energy efficiency, clean energy, and natural resource programs that will help reduce GHG emissions.

Building infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians, and educating and encouraging people to use these emission-free modes, can reduce vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions in the short term. In their letter, advocates argue that bike/ped projects are crucial in meeting the state’s emission reduction goals, though they do not specify what budget line should be reduced to create the $50 million cap-and-trade allocation for active transportation.

“There is a lot of demand for the ATP program,” said Jeanie Ward-Waller, California Advocacy Organizer for the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, one of the organizations putting together a letter asking the legislature to consider the allocation from cap-and-trade funds. “There are projects that are ready to go, and ready to start reducing emissions in the short term.”

The Safe Routes to School Partnership has been conducting workshops throughout the state to assist groups who want to apply for ATP funds. Nearly 70 people showed up for the most recent workshop in San Jose, including people from small and large jurisdictions, from Watsonville and Salinas to Danville and San Francisco.

“Most of them are ready to apply, and have projects lined up,” said Ward-Waller.

Caltrans also announced a series of training sessions throughout the state in April to help applicants compete for funding.

The organizations spearheading the letter include the National Partnership for Safe Routes to Schools, the California Bicycle Coalition, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, California Walks, Transform, and the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network. Organizations can sign on by emailing jeanie@saferoutespartnership.org by 5 p.m. today, after which the letter will be delivered to the Senate and Assembly budget subcommittees on transportation.

  • thielges

    I’ve been involved in similar discussions on getting access to Bay Area Air Quality (BAAMQD) grant funds. The problem is that the criteria used to compute the number of people who will mode switch from automobile to bike/walk results in a very low reduction in driving and therefore a low reduction in greenhouse gases. So a when a project to create a new bike path is compared against a project to swap out diesel garbage trucks with LPG, the truck project always wins because you can easily calculate the reduction in pollutants and greenhouse gases. Figuring out the mode-switch rates for a bike-ped project is much less cut and dried and is somewhat of a black art.

    The problem here is that the bike-ped projects are analyzed in isolation. Create a bike trail that connects to nothing and few people will take up cycling to work because they still have to contend with gnarly streets for the rest of the trip. But once that trail segment is linked in with a useful network, there’s an avalanche of usage.

    Until the evaluation criteria for these “tailpipe and smokestack” funds are upgraded to comprehend the long term impact of good bike and pedestrian networks, bike/ped will always lose out to the “big energy” projects.

  • SafeTREC

    Be sure to register for the primo Pedestrian Advocacy Conference in CA http://ow.ly/vplDs

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