Walking and bicycling infrastructure will receive a 35 percent boost in dedicated state funding through legislation signed by Governor Jerry Brown today. The measure (Senate Bill 99) restructures existing pedestrian, bicycle, trails, and Safe Routes to School programs into a comprehensive $129.5 million Active Transportation Program (ATP), to be administered by the California Transportation Commission.
“California’s new active transportation program demonstrates our strong commitment to bicycling, walking and other human-powered transit,” said Transportation Secretary Brian Kelly. “When Californians have more options for active transportation—including new and safer trails and pedestrian routes—it helps the state achieve greenhouse gas reduction goals while enhancing public health and safety.”
The milestone measure is a product of extensive negotiations between the Brown Administration, the Legislature, and a coalition of statewide non-profits—including California WALKS, California Bicycle Coalition, California ReLeaf, PolicyLink, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy,Safe Routes to School National Partnership, TransForm, California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, The Nature Conservancy, Prevention Institute and Public Health Institute. We worked in unison to ensure that the legislation maintained California’s commitment to Safe Routes to School, prioritized disadvantaged communities, and addressed other critical issues. Please read our joint statement on the adoption of the Active Transportation Program here.
What does the new Active Transportation Program mean for walking in California?
Even though walking accounts for 13.5% of all trips taken in California, in the past, there have been limited standalone state and federal funding streams for making improvements to the walking environment. Cal WALKS, working with our active transportation partners, successfully championed changes throughout the ATP legislation to ensure that walking is treated with parity to biking projects. Wendy Alfsen, Executive Director of Cal WALKS, says, “The Active Transportation Program is a gamechanger for improving walkability across California. It presents a tremendous opportunity for communities to pursue long-overdue and much needed investments to make it safer and more enjoyable for all Californians to walk.”
Key Features of the Active Transportation Program
The Active Transportation Program will be divided as follows: 40% distributed on a population basis to and administered by Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs); 10% administered by the state to small urban and rural regions on a competitive basis; and 50% administered by the state on a competitive basis open to eligible applicants statewide.
Our coalition successfully advocated for the state to maintain a minimum of $24 million per year, for the first three years of the program—cementing California’s continued national leadership in Safe Routes to School. This minimum funding floor will come from the state share of the ATP and effectively maintains level state funding for Safe Routes compared to prior years of the state Safe Routes to School program. Of this $24 million, $7.2 million will fund non-infrastructure programs—including the state Safe Routes to School Technical Assistance Resource Center (TARC)—that support education, community engagement, evaluation, and traffic enforcement. Safe Routes to Schools projects will also be eligible under the regional share of ATP funds, as well as for funds beyond the $24 million floor in the state share—presenting a key opportunity for Safe Routes advocates to secure an unprecedented amount of investment in making it safer and more enjoyable for California’s children to walk and bike to school.
Cal WALKS also worked closely with PolicyLink, the California Pan-Ethnic Health Network, Safe Routes to School National Partnership, California Convergence, Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program, the Leadership Council for Justice and Accountability, Prevention Institute, Public Health Institute, and many other health equity advocates to ensure that disadvantaged communities—the communities most at-risk for pedestrian injury/death and transportation-related pollution and other impacts—are not left out in the cold. The ATP guarantees that a minimum of 25% of all ATP funds must benefit or be located within a disadvantaged community.
What’s next for the Active Transportation Program?
The California Transportation Commission is charged with developing new guidelines for the new Program in collaboration with non-profit organizations, local and regional governments, and the public within 6 months of enactment. Cal WALKS and our statewide partners will be closely monitoring and providing input and recommendations to the guidelines development as part of the Active Transportation Program Workgroup. The Program guidelines must tackle some difficult issues left unanswered in the legislation, including: determining project selection criteria and scoring for different project types; ensuring a wide array of varied project types are selected; defining “disadvantaged community”; addressing barriers to successful applications from disadvantaged communities; and providing Program guidance to regional MPOs and other agencies that is not overly restrictive but advances the goals of the overall Program among many others. Please stay tuned for updates on the guidelines process and for opportunities where YOU can weigh in!