Safe Routes to School, Pedestrian and Bicycle Funds at Risk Despite Proof of Benefits

A recently-released study on the effectiveness of Safe Routes to School (SRTS) interventions in New York City found that there was a significant reduction in school-age pedestrian injuries in the areas where the City had made improvements, and that incidents in areas without improvements were virtually unchanged (Streetsblog provides more detail here). This study comes on the heels of NYSDOT’s announcement that $26.5 million in SRTS funds will be released for 64 projects across the state.

These are significant findings, but unfortunately, New York—City and State—will need to get creative if they want to continue these efforts because Congress has changed the rules of the game. With MAP-21, the new federal transportation law, Safe Routes to School is no longer a stand-alone program—it has been subsumed into the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), where walking and bicycling programs have seen a 30 percent reduction.

In order to assure that efforts to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety across the state continue, a new coalition (that Tri-State is helping coordinate), New Yorkers for Active Transportation (NY4AT), is working hard to make sure all funding options remain on the table.

The Transportation Alternatives Program is not the only source of federal funds that can be used for pedestrian and bicycle safety. In order to make up for the 30 percent reduction in this TAP pot, states will need to fund projects through other federal programs, such as the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) and the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ). NY4AT recently sent a letter to Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) across the state—which help to decide where and how federal funds are spent—reminding them that they have the power to dip into these flexible sources of funding.

A lot depends on New York State Department of Transportation though. It is imperative that the agency move quickly to make TAP and  Transportation Enhancements (TE) funding — leftover from the last federal transportation bill (SAFETEA-LU) — available to the MPOs. Unfortunately, NYSDOT’s recently updated State Transportation Improvement Program process clearly states that new pedestrian and bicycle facilities will not be a priority, making it harder for local governments to meet state match requirements for these federal grants.

NY4AT has responded by going right to the top. While Governor Cuomo supported the statewide Complete Streets law, the Draft NYSDOT Capital Plan, presented to the Governor’s NY Works Task Force, indicates that implementation of this law is not a priority. In a recent letter, NY4AT requested that the Governor establish a dedicated line in the executive budget to help assure these projects don’t suffer.

Albany has another parallel path that won’t cost them a dime — and it’s one that will help save lives. The State can authorize New York City to begin a speed camera demonstration program which would help to slow drivers down, especially in school zones.

1 Comment on "Safe Routes to School, Pedestrian and Bicycle Funds at Risk Despite Proof of Benefits"

  1. I was happiest the days I could bike to school. Taking a great way to start the day from kids is terrible.

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