CA’s Regional Agencies Tout Increased Ped Safety Funding in Sacramento

Panelists at the Peds Count Summit: Ahron Hakimi, KernCOG, Mike McKeever, SACOG, Ken Kirky, MTC, Huasha Liu, SCAG, Kome Ajise, Caltrans, and Charles Stoll, SANDAG
Panelists at the Peds Count Summit: Mike McKeever, SACOG, Ken Kirky, MTC, Huasha Liu, SCAG, Kome Ajise, Caltrans, and Charles Stoll, SANDAG. Photo: Melanie Curry

The Peds Count! 2014 Summit kicked off in Sacramento with a panel of top-level executives from regional planning agencies celebrating their accomplishments in improving conditions for pedestrians.

The speakers represented an alphabet soup of major metropolitan transportation agencies in California: SANDAG, the San Diego Association of Governments; SACOG, the Sacramento Area Council of Governments; SCAG, Southern California Association of Governments; KernCOG, the Kern Council of Governments; and MTC, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission from the San Francisco Bay Area.

The summit, the third bi-annual conference organized by CaliforniaWalks, brings together advocates and planners from throughout the state to discuss the current state of research, policy, and innovation in the realm of planning for pedestrians in California’s cities and counties.

According to the California Household Travel Survey, the number of walking trips has doubled since 2000, to 16.6 percent of all trips reported. However, less than one percent of transportation funding in the state goes towards improvements for active transportation (walking and bicycling). In addition, pedestrian safety goals were not included in a recent Federal Highway Administration proposal on new performance measures for national highways.

But the agency executives at the conference celebrated the progress that was made, and challenged pedestrian advocates to build support to make it easier for agencies to do more.

SANDAG’s Charles Stoll told the crowd of advocates that funding for active transportation projects in the San Diego region increased from $1 million per year up to 2007 to between $4 and $4.5 million per year, with a new bike plan approved in 2010.

SCAG tripled its funding for active transportation, said Huasha Liu, the agency’s director of land use and transportation. Up north, a new federal grant program One Bay Area allowed the MTC to consolidate projects and increase the amount of money allocated for bicycle and pedestrian projects to $60 million, with additional funds available through programs such as Safe Routes to School.

KernCOG has committed to building a thousand miles of bikeways by 2040, to be funded by deferring two large freeway projects and investing that money, around $100 million, in active transportation.

“Our board is not so much focused on greenhouse gas emissions,” said Ahron Hakimi, KernCOG’s executive director. “But we’re laser-focused on air quality and related health issues.”

SACOG’s director, Mike McKeever, said that more than eight percent of its regional transportation budget is dedicated to active transportation projects. McKeever also talked about the Sacramento area’s “Blueprint,” one of the first regional planning processes in the state to connect land use and transportation by focusing on creating many small scale, mixed-use infill developments.

“This has moved beyond boutique funding,” he said. “These are go-to, workhouse transportation projects, and they compete well with other projects for funding.”

Clearly, active transportation is seeing a greater emphasis at the regional level, and increased funding is a crucial first step. But there remains a lag between between talking about projects and getting them on the ground.

“I don’t think any of us think we’re where we want to be or need to be,” said McKeever. Several panelists attested to the difficulties of getting buy-in from local agencies and the public.

“Getting these things into the plans is so important; it’s a crucial first step,” said SANDAG’s Stoll. “But getting these things on the ground is hard. Some very progressive stakeholders are still concerned when you talk about removing parking or a lane. We need help from you,” he told the advocates in the audience. “We need to keep things focused on what the community is going to look like when we’re done.”

Despite these difficulties, McKeever struck an optimistic note. “I think the revolution is here,” he said. “I think it’s a whole new world in transportation planning.”

The PedsCount! conference continues through tomorrow morning.

  • Eric Maundry

    “Despite these difficulties, McKeever struck an optimistic note. ‘I think the revolution is here,’ he said. ‘I think it’s a whole new world in transportation planning.’” — Brain dead central planning was the revolution in the Soviet Union as well. And still is in North Korea. Is it any wonder Hasan Ikhrata is a former Soviet planner?

  • Joe Linton

    “This has moved beyond boutique funding” is sort of a confession of how bad the funding really was. Looking at some L.A. projects comparatively, I am not sure that we’re really beyond boutique quite yet. Active transportation is still funded at orders of magnitude less than highways. Complete streets / active transpo / bike / ped projects are funded in the millions, some in the low tens of millions. Highways, streets (and subways) are in the multi-billions.

  • cherylmeril

    This problem can’t be solved, only mitigated and the peds need to be educated on the dangers of not being attentive on their iPhones when entering crosswalks and choosing to jay walk.

    Additionally, the growth of the use of headphone technology keeps peds in their own little world as if they’re in their living room listening to music. They become very self-centered and unaware of their surroundings making it extremely dangerous. They think nothing of making bad choices to dart across the street in front of traffic and bicyclists. They also often miscalculate whether they can still make it safely across the street when they have 2 seconds left in entering the cross-walk.

    This pedestrian problem is largely due to the city not promoting the dangers of self-absorption with texting and iphone technology along with a serious lack of enforcement of jay walking in which I’ve witnessed rank and file crossings of a long line of individuals in the middle of a major four lane California street between Kearny and Montgomery in front of 555 California B of A building when the crosswalk is inconvenient for them to choose only 100 feet away.

    Try putting up signs of a stick figure on the ground with a red marked circle and cross through that says “Don’t Jaywalk”. Also place signs where numerous pedestrians were killed stating it’s especially dangerous as a “death zone” of multiple persons.

    Pedestrians are out of control and so are bicyclists and skate borders who just do whatever they want like going against one way street traffic and acting like San Francisco streets are their playground. There’s rarely any traffic enforcement yet the city does provide traffic cops for paid contractor projects. It seems public money isn’t being well spent on enforcing traffic laws and only paid corporate events in the city summon such traffic over-site cops of the SFPD who show up for Masonic events to direct traffic.

  • Alex Brideau III

    It’s interesting that you refer to pedestrians as “they”. We’re all pedestrians. Some of us also drive; some of us also bike; some of us also ride transit. But we’re all pedestrians.

  • cherylmeril

    I see myself more as a bicyclist but you’re right.

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