Continuing our coverage of bills making their way through the California legislative session, today we’re highlighting some bills that we like. A group will probably be heard first at the Assembly Transportation Committee this Monday, April 11.
Firstly, the state budget is undergoing its usual complicated negotiation process. It is made more complex because a big chunk of money from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund (GGRF), which was supposed to be allocated last year, has been held hostage by legislative inaction. Therefore this special fund, supplied by the state’s cap-and-trade system wherein polluters pay for the privilege of polluting, is growing ever larger and is looking especially juicy and delicious to all kinds of constituents. By law, it must be used to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, although some people play fast and loose with what that means.
Active transportation advocates argue that biking and walking infrastructure spending is a logical expense for the GGRF. They want legislators to increase allocations to the Active Transportation Program (ATP). The governor has instead proposed creating what he calls a “Low-Carbon Roads” program, but it’s unclear what that is exactly—and it’s really not clear why it’s necessary to create a new program when the Active Transportation Program is already in place—and underfunded.
A bill from Assemblyman Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) looks at how the ATP spends its money. Currently most of the ATP goes for infrastructure, which makes sense as the state’s historic focus on building for cars has put other travel modes at a disadvantage. But while building stuff—bike lanes, better sidewalks, bus stops, and the like—to encourage biking and walking is crucial, it’s just as important that those projects get planned in the right way. It’s hard for low-income areas to put together strong plans that have community support on tight budgets and there currently isn’t a lot of support for planning in the ATP. The same goes for education and encouragement programs, considered “soft” and not as visible as paths and lanes, but equally crucial if the state wants to shift people out of cars. Bloom’s bill, A.B. 2796, would ensure that a percentage of ATP funds go for planning and programming in disadvantaged communities.