Advocates Say MTC Proposal Short-Changes Regional Bike Network

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."

Picture_5.pngMTC cost-benefit analysis and project objectives graph.

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.

  • This is a great example of the backwards thought process which perpetuates traffic, oil consumption, and GHG emissions. When all MTC has done over the past few decades is fund infrastructure which encourages driving, no wonder most people drive. I’d assume that MTC’s “cost-benefit analysis” doesn’t even take into account public health impacts, and probably places way more importance on short-term traffic relief than on environmental and energy effects.

    Bicycle infrastructure is among the most cost-effective investments governments can make–Portland has achieved an 8% mode share by investing just 1% of its yearly transportation budget! I recently completed a research paper on the benefits of bicycle infrastructure, which can be read at: http://21stcenturyurbansolutions.files.wordpress.com/2009/03/bicycle-infrastructure-essay-final.pdf

  • e

    It seems like the MTC is doing its best to ensure driving goes to a 95% “share” everywhere for all time. Or at least for a few years until oil prices make it too costly to drive, people wake up and realize that global warming makes it immoral, and we’re left with a stranded investment in a multi-billion dollar highway system that wont be fully utilized. MTC spokesman Randy Rentschler and the policy makers behind him need to resign and be replaced by planners that can build us something for the next 50 years, not the last 50.

  • bikerider

    The Bigger the Lie, the more people will believe.

    Bike projects are, of course, THE most cost-effective, bang-for-the-buck, shovel-ready infrastructure.

  • Imagine that! If I’m getting this right, the Bay Area wastes 90% to 95% of its gas just to haul fat asses to work every day. This stupidity is replicated all over the country and in many places all over the globe.

    When the oil runs out (which is already happening) and really becomes a problem, our children will be cursing us to hell.

  • jcs

    Today at The Bay Area Partnership meeting MTC Director Steve Heminger said that we need to invest in freeway infrastructure because motorists pay the gas tax, and that money should be invested to help them. What he is not taking into account is that motor vehicles exact a toll on our infrastructure and environment. The tax revenue generated by vehicle miles traveled should offset the unaccounted costs of driving by investing that money in infrastructure that will reduce pollution– such as TODs, and bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure.

    The majority of Partnership members who commented on the proposal said they support prioritizing funding for local streets and transit over the FPI, yet Heminger stayed his ground, convinced the FPI needs to be funded right away.

    MTC’s cost benefit analysis determined the FPI achieves significant goals of the RTP by increasing flow on freeways. However, making driving more convenient will increase the number of people who will drive, and combined with population growth, in a few years congestion will be the same as today.

    We need to shift focus away from single occupant vehicles and instead increase funding for transportation modes that will more effectively accommodate increased capacity over a longer time period. Just sheer street space taken up by motor vehicles compared to transit, bicycles and walking clearly shows that investment in these modes will be most cost effective in the long run.

    Transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure are superior in their ability to accommodate capacity, reduce pollution and reduce wear on our roads, especially rail transit. When investment in these modes make for safe, convenient and comfortable communities, combined with ample access to public transportation and mixed-use development, less people will need to use freeways. This combination also makes for more enjoyable neighborhoods where people are more likely to get to know their neighbors, building social capital.