Posts Tagged ‘Funding’

TAP grants fund local bicycle and trail projects

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013

The current Federal Transportation bill made many changes to how we fund non-motorized projects. One major change was the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) functionally replaced the old Transportation Enhancements (TE) program. The bill also required MDOT to share that TAP funding to groups like SEMCOG that would make grants within their seven county region.

At the national level, this sharing was considered a “win”. In Michigan, MDOT did a fair job with TE funding, so this may be a negative since it adds complexity and requires advocates to monitor two separate granting programs.

Either way, the first round of SEMCOG TAP grant funding has been announced — a total of $6.3 million in grants:

  • City of New Baltimore, Connection to the County Line Rd. Path, $183,016
  • City of Monroe, North Dixie Highway Median, $80,000
  • City of Auburn Hills, Opdyke Pathway Gaps, $267,475
  • City of Auburn Hills, Downtown Riverwalk Squirrel Ct Improvements, $194,589
  • City of Ferndale, Livernois Complete Street, $118,094.40
  • City of Ferndale, West Nine Mile Streetscape Improvement (Livernois to Pinecrest) Phase IV, $590,134
  • City of Novi, Metro Connector Trail, $741,200
  • City of Rochester, Safety Crossing, $99,970
  • St. Clair County Road Commission, Bridge to Bay Trail on Desmond Landing, $211,339
  • City of Port Huron, Bridge to Bay trail – 10th Street to Military Street, $250,614
  • Ypsilanti Twp (Road Commission for Washtenaw County), Grove Road trail reconstruction, $763,000
  • City of Allen Park, Ecorse Road Streetscape, $626,883
  • City of Dearborn, Proposed Rouge River Greenway Extension Project- UM Dearborn Connection, $242,830
  • City of Dearborn, Rouge River Gateway Trail Extension Phase I, $302,000
  • City of Detroit, West Vernor / Woodmere to Clark Streetscape, $1,000,000
  • City of Detroit, Congress Streetscape, $636,310

Our favorite? Ferndale’s Livernois Complete Street project will provide bike lanes and more to improve the cycling connection between Ferndale (at 9 Mile) and Detroit. The city of Detroit is also looking at improvements to Livernois south of Eight Mile. When completed, this will provide a nice route between the University District/Sherwood Forest neighborhoods and downtown Ferndale.

We also like Dearborn’s extension of the Rouge Gateway Trail from Andiamo’s Restaurant and westward. Ending in a restaurant parking lot on a busy Michigan Avenue is far from ideal. Continuing the trail to the nearby neighborhood and park is a great idea.

Many of the other projects are wide sidewalks and sidepaths along roads. With the exception of Novi’s project (which connects two MDOT trails), it’s disappointing to see these projects funded from a limited source. We think the cities should pay for sidewalks and sidepaths, especially since in so many cases they less safe and more costly than other options.

ANSWER: Do bicyclists’ pay for roads?

Wednesday, June 6th, 2012

You’ve probably read it before, often in the comments sections of the Free Press and Detroit News – cyclists don’t pay for roads, motorists do.

Of course that includes the assumption that because one group pays for something, the other can’t use it. Like schools. Residents, businesses, and even the DNR pay school taxes for children to… oh wait… bad example.

It also assumes all cyclists aren’t motorists at other times.

Taxpayers subsidize road funding

But the reality is everyone pays for roads. Yes, motorists pay registration fees and fuel taxes, but they only cover a portion of the road funding.

At the federal level, a 2007 study found that motorists fees and taxes cover 51% of road costs nationwide. With Congress unwilling to increase the federal fuel tax, inflation has eaten up a third of its buying power over the past 19 years. The result is Congress has been adding general tax dollars to the transportation fund for years to close the gap.

And now Governor Rick Synder is doing the same. The Free Press reported that the Governor wants to put $110 million in general tax dollars into road funding. Like Congress, a majority of state legislators don’t want to raise motorists’ fees to cover road costs.

Any guesses where the ARRA stimulus funding for transportation came from? It wasn’t the federal fuel tax.

Free public parking. Minimum parking requirements for developers. Public lighting. Our billion dollar combined sewer overflow issues exasperated by roads and parking lots. Who pays for those? Everyone.

Of course most of our road right-of-ways were acquired and initially improved well before state (1920s) and federal (1932) motorists fees were created. In fact the movement to improve roads, the Good Roads Movement was led by bicyclists.

Bicyclists subsidize motorists

The Victoria Transport Policy Institute takes this discussion a step further, taking a comprehensive look at road funding and all transportation costs.

From their report, Whose Roads? Evaluating Bicyclists’ and Pedestrians’ Right to Use Public Roadways:

Although pedestrians and cyclists do not pay special road user fees, they do help pay for the sidewalks, paths and roads. Only about half of roadway expenses are financed by user fees. Half of all roadway costs are financed by general taxes, which people pay regardless of how they travel, and this portion is increasing. Although a major portion of highway expenses are financed by motor vehicle user fees, they fund only a small portion of local roads and traffic services. Because they are small and light, pedestrians and cyclists impose much smaller roadway costs per mile of travel than motor vehicles. Motor vehicle use also imposes a variety of external costs, including parking subsidies, congestion, uncompensated crash and environmental damages. Because they tend to travel fewer miles per year, they impose far lower total costs per capita than motorists. As a result, people who drive less than average tend to overpay their fair share of transport costs, while those who drive more than average underpay. As a result, pedestrians and bicyclists tend to subsidize motorists.

Final Answer

Bicyclists not only pay their fair share for roads, they help subsidize motorists.

Legislation would eliminate 1% bike/walk funding

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

A group of bills were introduced in Lansing earlier this year that change how Michigan generates and distributes road funding.

These bills as written have many opponents. Bicyclists, pedestrians, trail users, and Complete Street supporters should be among them.

Here are three reasons.

Eliminates bike funding requirement

First, House Bill 5300 would transfer funding from the current Michigan Transportation Fund (MTF) to the Commercial Corridor Fund (CCF) over an 8 year period. The MTF and CCF distribute funds to counties, cities, and villages. The MTF requires 1% of the funding to be spent on non-motorized facilities like bike lanes and sidewalks. The CCF has no such requirement.

So rather than remove the 1% requirement in law, legislators are simply creating a new fund without the requirement and shifting the money. We’re not sure how intentional this change was, but it has been a long standing goal of the County Road Association of Michigan to remove this requirement.

Increases funding for sprawl

The current road funding is generally distributed based on the miles of roads. House Bill 5303 would change that to distribute funding based on motor vehicle miles traveled or VMT.

Counties and cities that require people to drive more and longer distances will be rewarded. There will be a financial disincentive for counties and cities to promote public transit, biking and walking as they’ll receive less money.

Forecasts from MDOT show the city of Detroit would see some devastating funding cuts as a result. Even if the fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees are raised significantly, the City will still lose 8% of their road funding. And since those tax and fee increases may not even occur, the loss will be even greater. The City has already testified against this change.

Ironically enough, the bill’s sponsor is former City Councilwoman Alberta Tinsley-Talabi.

Promotes speeding

Granted this is the weaker of the three sins, but it deserves a mention for its sheer stupidity.

House Bills 5301 and 5302 require counties, cities, and villages to time traffic lights but not for the speed limit. On a road that has enough speeding cars, this legislation requires road agencies to time the traffic lights for them, which will likely induce more speeding.

We’ve already heard of MDOT doing this on a local state trunkline. Now this practice will be enshrined in law.

Recommended action

We recommend you contact your state representative and state senator to let them know you oppose removing the 1% requirement and oppose distributing road funds according to vehicle miles traveled.

These bills have been out for more than a couple months now. We can’t afford to keep sitting on the sidelines.

With ever rising fuel prices and increasing public interest in Complete Streets, it is unacceptable that we change road funding that takes us back to the 1970s mind set.

Greenway mini-grants available in Detroit

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

From the Healthy Environments Partnership:

Detroit residents who want to create a more beautiful and physically active environment in their communities are in luck. The Healthy Environments Partnership (HEP) Greenway Mini-Grant program is funding projects, up to $1000, that will take place along the Conner Creek, Brightmoor Lyndon, and Southwest Detroit Greenways. HEP will be accepting requests for proposals from Detroiters engaging community residents, building local ownership, and promoting social and physical activity along the greenways. Some examples of the types of projects that will be funded are: creating youth artwork along the greenways, planting community gardens adjacent to the greenways, or hosting walk & talk programs that bring policy makers out where residents can share their local concerns.

For more information contact Julia Weinert at 734-763-0741, weinertj@umich.edu or go to the HEP website at www.hepdetroit.org and click on ‘Community Activities’. Mini-Grant materials will also be available at neighborhood development corporations in Eastside, Northwest, and Southwest Detroit. The application deadline is April 13, 2012.

The Healthy Environments Partnership, established in 2000, is a partnership including the Brightmoor Community Center, Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation, Friends of Parkside, Rebuilding Communities Incorporated, The Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion, Henry Ford Health System, and the University of Michigan. It is funded through the National Institute of Environmental Science and is an affiliated project of the Detroit Community-Academic Urban Research Center.

House transportation bill: a disaster for biking and walking

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

Since 1993, biking and walking transportation have been better supported with each new transportation bill: Safe Routes to School, Transportation Enhancements, Bike/Pedestrian coordinators at the state DOT’s, and more.

That’s could end soon.

Today the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted on a new federal transportation bill — an 800-page bill that none of the legislators admitted to reading since its release just two days prior.

Current U.S. DOT Transportation Secretary and form Republican congressman Ray LaHood told Politico:

“This is the most partisan transportation bill that I have ever seen. And it also is the most anti-safety bill I have ever seen. It hollows out our No. 1 priority, which is safety, and frankly, it hollows out the guts of the transportation efforts that we’ve been about for the last three years. It’s the worst transportation bill I’ve ever seen during 35 years of public service.”

Oregon’s Representative Peter DeFazio called it “a transportation bill with an ideological wish list – drafted with Big Oil companies in mind – that will prevent Congress from passing a measure that could provide real transportation improvements.”

The League of American Bicyclists have put together this top 10 list of problems. For example, rail trails could not be funded by Transportation Enhancement dollars. The Dequindre Cut, Clinton River Trail, Macomb Orchard Trail, and other area rail-trail projects were largely built with Transportation Enhancement dollars.

A bipartisan amendment was introduced to restore dedicated biking and walking funding. It failed to pass, 27 to 29.

Michigan Congresswoman Candice Miller, a longtime support of the Macomb Orchard Trail, voted against the amendment.

What’s next? According to this America Bikes timeline, the bill should hit the House around the week of February 13th.

Meanwhile the Senate is working on its own version of the transportation bill which not only maintains current biking and walking funding, it has some level of bi-partisan support.

Tomorrow the House Republican leadership has proposed killing dedicated public transit funding.