The Safe Routes to School National Partnership, along with a number of coalition partners, has offered a petition to increase the amount of funding for California’s Active Transportation Program (ATP). Information on the petition is at Safe Routes to School California and California Walks. What follows is not intended to discourage you from signing the petition. Rather, I’m suggesting that it doesn’t go far enough.
The petition asks for an increase of $100 million per year in funding. With the existing funding of about $120M, this would be just less than double the current funding, a not insignificant increase.
However, the amount is a tiny fraction the roughly $28 billion spent yearly on transportation in California. The majority of this expenditure is through Caltrans, and the majority of that is to expand the highway and road network. Those expenditures work directly against the goal of walkable, livable communities. Yes, expansions often now include some sidewalks and some bicycle facilities, but the preponderance of the project is not on these afterthoughts, but on increasing lane miles by extending and widening highways and roadways. Of the money expended on the road transportation system, about half comes from cities, counties and regions, about one-quarter from the federal government, and about one-quarter from the state. But because the state controls the federal and state portion, and state standards determine or strongly influence how the rest is spent, things must change at the state level.
Marketing for the petition includes: “Nearly $800 million in shovel-ready walking, bicycling and Safe Routes to School projects and programs were left unfunded in the first ATP awards cycle.” I imagine now that many agencies have started to figure out how ATP works, there will be even more applications this cycle, with an even bigger gap between applications and available funding. So would the addition of $100 million really make much of a difference? We have a long term deficit in active transportation of trillions of dollars. $100 million is not that significant.
The graphic below shows the portion of the state transportation budget (in red) going to the ATP program (in green) and which would be added (blue) if the petition resulted in supportive legislation. You may need to squint.