In recent weeks, regional transportation agencies in Southern California have made some slow moves towards embracing a more sustainable transportation network throughout the Southland. Local “Metropolitan Planning Organization” the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is poised to pass a long term plan that would dramatically increase bicycle and pedestrian funding while its sister agency in San Diego passed the first regional funding plan complying with the state’s ground breaking greenhouse gas emissions law SB 375 which mandates improvements in air quality with reductions in vehicles miles traveled.
Last week, SCAG’s Joint Meeting of the Regional Council and Planning Committees met to vote on a proposed long-term plan for the SCAG region which covers Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura and Imperial counties, passed a measure that nearly tripled the regional investment in bicycle and pedestrian projects.
Over thirty people testified in favor of the proposal including representatives of the Safe Routes to Schools California, Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, National Resources Defense Council, and San Bernadino Council of Public Health. At the Safe Routes to Schools blog site, Jessica Meaney lists some of the more powerful testimonies.
So bicycle and pedestrian planning is on the mark in Greater Los Angeles County. That’s the good news. The bad news is the near-tripling of funding is less impressive when put in a larger framework. SCAG updates its long-term plan every four years. In 2008, it allocated less than half of one percent to bicycle and pedestrian funding. This year’s draft plan increases that percentage all the way to 1.3% of the future funds or about $6 billion of a $450 billion spending plan.
The Safe Routes to Schools California explains why even the higher number is alarmingly low:
And given that 21 percent of all trips are conducted via walking or biking (2009 National Household Travel Survey) and 25 percent of all roadway injuries and fatalities in this region affect bicyclist and pedestrians (2008 SWITRS data), we continue to urge SCAG’s Regional Council to invest a significant percentage of resources toward walkable and bikeable communities and neighborhoods.
But even alarmingly low is better than the status quo. At NRDC’s Switchboard, Amanda Eaken casts a positive light on this modest victory but still calls for a more equitable funding scheme:
We couldn’t agree more. But is funding a paltry 1.3% enough to do that? We don’t think so. Equity, safety and the environment demand more than that.
Fortunately, there’s time to improve the plan. The next milestone is the December 1, 2011 vote of the full Regional Council to release the preferred alternative to the public for review.