Bicycle advocates are upset that the first draft of a spending plan to come out of the Metropolitan Transportation Agency’s (MTC) 25-year Change in Motion regional transportation blueprint falls far short on proposed funding for the regional bicycle network. They say the MTC is failing to demonstrate a commitment to bicycles.
According to Change in Motion, the regional bicycle
network will get $700 million over 25 years in 2007 dollars ($1 billion when escalated by
2035), or $28 million each year. The draft proposal circulating at the MTC only funds the regional bicycle network with $42 million over six years, or $126 million short of what advocates say was pledged in the regional plan [PDF].
"Our main concern in the bicycle community is that the regional bike programming is funded in a very consistent way so that we’re not waiting to the end of the 25 year cycle for the promised funding," said Andrew Casteel, Executive Director of the Bay Area Bicycle Coalition. "The more places that you can access with good bike lanes, the more people who feel safe commuting, the more people will choose that option. That’s an investment that shows returns in the long run."
MTC spokesperson Randy Rentschler said it was a mistake to equate Change In Motion with a funding proposal. "It’s a common thing for folks to see this regional transportation plan and see it as a programming plan. And it should be linked, but not [identical]."
He also countered the claim that bicycles infrastructure is a good investment from an economic perspective, saying that it
scores poorly on the MTC’s cost benefit analysis, especially compared to adjustments to the flow of cars on freeways.
"The fact is that upfront investment in bicycling does not bring bang for the buck," said Rentschler. "Most people drive everyday; driving for the work trip is 90% of the market share in the Bay Area, in some areas it’s 95% of the market share."
Casteel said the MTC’s data on bicycle use was a decade old and based on incomplete data from bad questions on the Census, so that multi-modal bicycle trips often get lumped together with BART or other transit trips.
"The reason they have a poor cost-benefit analysis of bicycling is they are using an old survey with old data," said Casteel. "If they’re going to make these cost-benefit numbers the fight, then we need to have better data. We need better numbers for bikes and for pedestrians and we need to look forward to what’s really going to be sustainable for the long term."
The MTC proposal that under-funds bicycle infrastructure does kick-start the Freeway Performance Initiative (FPI), which includes initiatives like metering lights on
on-ramps and traffic flow studies. When asked to counter Casteel’s argument that spending money to make it easier to drive would just encourage more driving, Rentschler said, "There are intellectual arguments about induced demand. I’m not trying
to say that the advocates don’t have a good point."
Although he didn’t rule out value bicycle improvements for non-economic reasons, he argued his agency could benefit the lives of more
people in the Bay Area with the FPI than it could with bicycle infrastructure.
In some cases a significant improvement to the roadway can provide incredible benefits to people. This is not the same as saying we should have a wholesale highway expansion in the Bay Area. For us, our
objective is to maximize the assets that we have at our disposal. We
want it to work at the best capacity as possible. We value that, we
think it’s a good idea. Punishing people with traffic so that they can
have a behavior change is a blunt instrument that we don’t want to use.