Green Options Buffalo had the opportunity to attend the 2009 National Bike Summit early in the month through a sponsorship from Independent Health. The purpose of the Summit is to make a powerful case to congress for expanding federal support for bicycling, for both recreation and active transportation.
One of the keynote speakers was Ray H. LaHood who is now the United State Secretary for Transportation at the US Department of Transportation. He stated in his presentation that the federal government is now committed to making our communities livable by recognizing the importance and uniqueness of each where bicycles coexist with other modes and safely share roads, bridges and trails. This is in stark contrast to where we have been as a nation during the previous eight years.
Some policy highlights included:
The Clean, Low Emission, Affordable, New Transportation Efficiency Act (CLEAN-TEA)
The transportation sector is the second largest and fastest-growing contributor to U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Climate legislation must be linked to transportation policy so that transportation alternatives, paired with more efficient land use, become critical tools to address climate change.
Despite some stagnation in the last year because of the economy; driving or vehicle miles traveled (VMT) has grown by three time the rate of population growth over the past 15 years, and is set to grow by 50% by 2030. While there has been a federal focus on increasing fuel economy of vehicles and decreasing carbon content of fuels, these strategies alone will not be enough to slow and reverse overall GHG emissions from the transportation sector.
The technology to create compact communities which promote walking, bicycling and enhance public transportation exists today. CLEAN-TEA aims to lower emissions from the transportation sector by setting aside 10 percent of funds generated from the auction of carbon emission allowances from any future climate bill to fund a Low Greenhouse Gas Transportation Fund. Eligible projects would include transit, passenger and freight rail, bicycling and pedestrian projects.
Sens. Thomas Carper (D-Del.) and Arlen Specter (R-Penn.) and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.), Steven La Tourette (R-Ohio), Melissa Bean (D-Ill.), and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) introduced the Clean, Low Emission Affordable New Transportation Efficiency Act. H.R. 1329, on March 11th 2009.
The Complete Streets Act of 2009 (S. 584/ H.R. 1443)
Complete streets are streets that work for all users, not just those using a car. Instituting a complete streets policy ensures that transportation agencies routinely design and operate the entire right of way to enable safe access for drivers, transit users and vehicles, pedestrians, and bicyclists, as well as for older people, children, and people with disabilities. More than 80 jurisdictions (Buffalo and Erie County included) spanning all regions of the country have adopted complete streets policies through legislation, internal agency policies, and design manuals.
The Complete Streets Act of 2009 defines effective complete streets policies that are flexible enough to use in daily transportation planning practice. It directs state DOTs and MPOs to adopt such policies within two years of enactment of the bill and apply the policies to upcoming federally funded transportation projects. The bill directs the US Department of Transportation to develop a mechanism to ensure compliance with the bill and to report to Congress on what State DOTs and MPOs are doing to adopt and implement complete streets policies in accordance with the bill. States that do not comply would have a small percentage of their State’s surface transportation funds directed towards safety projects. The bill also updates current federal code on bicycle and pedestrian accommodation and authorizes needed research and data collection, technical assistance, and dissemination of complete streets best practices.
Other Policy discussions included:
- A new federal transportation bill which would include complete streets, safe routes to school, fair share for safety and a larger investment in a multi-modal transportation network.
- A new transportation bill is not likely for another 3 years and will have to address not only policy but funding as the current Highway Trust Fund is going broke due to its reliance on the gasoline tax. Currently, this funding formula is faced with two scenarios to maintain its current spending power until congress passes new legislation which includes either:
- An increase in the gasoline tax by a minimum of $0.10 per gallon or;
- Reduce spending by 30-40%
- Likely solution is raising the gasoline tax in the short term, phasing it out over the long term and changing the funding structure to a tax on vehicle miles traveled (VMT)
In talking to our New York City counterparts from Transportation Alternatives, they provided this interesting fact: NYC is in the process of creating 10miles of bicycle lanes a month adding a 120 miles per year – because of this they have seen a 35% increase in bicycle commuting after improvements are made.
“Having a family being able to bicycle together is a sign of a livable community” – Earl Blumenauer (D-OR)