Funding transportation projects in California is a complex and arcane process involving many players, including state and federal agencies, regional planning authorities, and local cities and counties. It usually comes with strings attached, needing to fulfill requirements of state or federal legislation or of a local sales tax spending plan. A project can start with local residents advocating for something they want, but needing to fit it to state or regional goals for planning, air quality, or transportation.
Do we expect a parent who wants their child to have a safer route to school to know all this? No, I don’t think so. But cities lose out when its residents are left in the dark and don’t know they can weigh in to improve projects being planned, or make their own suggestions about what improvements they need.
Alliance for a Healthy Orange County (AHOC) is stepping up to change that. In Garden Grove and Anaheim, the group has launched an Active Transportation Leadership Program to encourage and train residents to become advocates for their community’s needs.
“The purpose is to have grassroots community engagement,” said Michele Martinez, executive director of AHOC. Staff and city council members in Anaheim and Garden Grove advocate for more active transportation policies and projects in their cities, Martinez said, but there aren’t many community leaders doing it. “We want to make sure to have champions at all levels,” Martinez added.
The Active Transportation Leadership Program is funded through grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Endowment. The three-year program launched in Santa Ana last year, with Santa Ana Active Streets (SAAS) taking the lead (full disclosure: I worked on the first ATLP program with SAAS).
The ATLP was chosen for Anaheim, Garden Grove, and Santa Ana because of transportation plans being proposed in those areas, including the OC Streetcar Project, Martinez said. Garden Grove is working on its bicycle/pedestrian Active Streets Master Plan, and Anaheim on its Bicycle Master Plan.
This week’s workshops will give residents a chance to learn about how projects are planned and funded, with presentations by planners at the Orange County Transportation Authority, Southern California Association of Governments, Caltrans, and the respective cities.
Future workshops will train attendees to assess their communities to identify Active Transportation needs, including collecting data about what’s already there and what’s missing. There will also be sessions about how to advocate for improvements and whom to talk to.
All workshops are free and open to the public. Anyone can become a leader for active transportation. See after the jump for workshop details.