Thursday, January 14, 2010

It's not just about moving people

Some people think that the only criteria for evaluating transportation projects should be "which strategies move the most people most effectively in most corridors." That's been the formula at the Federal Transit Authority as well, regardless of the effect of new projects on communities. Thanks to the new administration, that will change. According to a recent blog post by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Walking the walk; New transit action puts livability criteria squarely into the mix:
Look, everywhere I go, people tell me they want better transportation in their communities. They want the opportunity to leave their cars behind. To live near work and schools and good hospitals. And to enjoy clean, green neighborhoods. The old way of doing things just doesn't value what people want.

Now, the Recovery Act discretionary TIGER grants we announce soon will help some communities achieve these broader goals.

But if we’re serious--really serious--about creating livable communities built around good transportation, then our Federal Transit Administration needs to consider key livability factors when evaluating non-Recovery Act transit proposals. Factors like enivronmental benefits and economic development opportunities.

Unfortunately, FTA's flagship programs use cost and performance requirements that are too narrow to allow for weighing these livability factors.

So we are opening them up to a broader set of six performance criteria:
  • Economic development
  • Mobility improvements
  • Environmental benefits
  • Operating efficiencies
  • Cost effectiveness
  • Land use
See an earlier post about FTA's new guidelines regarding bicycle facilities within 3 miles of transit stations.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Bikes and transit

Bicycle projects that connect to transit can receiving funding from the Federal Transit Administration if they have a "physical or functional relationship" to the transit center. According to Cyclelicious, this is generally interpreted to mean 1500 feet. "The FTA now acknowledges, however, that this 1,500 distance is too short. According to the FTA, research shows people are willing to travel about 15 minutes to their bus stop or station. That equates to about 1/2 mile for walking and three miles bicycling."

As a result, FTA is proposing a to clarify their policy on funding of pedestrian and bicycle facilities located near transit: "pedestrian improvements located within one-half mile and all bicycle improvements located within three miles of a public transportation stop or station shall have a de facto physical and functional relationship to public transportation."

The federal registry notice (pdf) for FTA–2009–0052 contains some good information and references about bicycling and transit:
With respect to bicycle facilities in particular, Secretary LaHood has committed the Department to "work toward an America where bikes are recognized to coexist with other modes and to safely share our roads and bridges." If we are to create livable communities, "the range of transportation choices available to all Americans-including transit, walking, bicycling, and improved connectivity for various modes-must be expanded.

The success of public transportation can be limited by the problem of the "first and last mile." One of "the best present options for solving the first and last mile dilemma are bicycles. Bicycles are the no-brainer of American mobility, one of our great underutilized resources. There are more bicycles in the United States than there are households but most of those bikes sit in garages except for an occasional recreational outing. And yet they are the perfect transportation choice for a short one- to three-mile trip to and from a transit station."
Comments on the policy are accepted until January 12, 2010.

See also The League of American Bicyclists post on this proposed policy change.

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