Archive for the ‘Funding’ Category

A cycling perspective on Detroit’s EFM

Sunday, March 3rd, 2013

Detroit EFMOn Friday, Governor Rick Snyder announced his plans to install an Emergency Finance Manager or EFM in the city of Detroit.

There are many varied opinions on this, but we’ll just look at it from a cycling and trails perspective just as we did with the earlier consent agreement.

The Mayor’s office and City Council have been very supportive of making the city more bike friendly and more walkable. There’s not another city in Metro Detroit that’s doing more. So from a high-level perspective, an EFM reduces their influence and could potentially derail some of this positive momentum.

Will that happen? Probably not.

The EFM will likely focus on general funding issues. Most of the bike and trail work is funded through grants, philanthropy, and the city’s road fund, which comes from the state and federal government. General funds are not used to build bike lanes or trails. The state and federal road funds cannot be spent on anything but transportation according to Michigan’s Constitution.

However, general funds are used to maintain city parks, through which some trails pass. Those park services were severely cut after the failed Belle Isle lease proposal. The park closure most directly affecting trails is Maheras-Gentry. The Conner Creek Greenway would remain open, but the park entrance maybe closed to motor vehicles.

According to the Detroit Free Press, public transit, lighting, and public safety are more likely to be affected. Certainly these all affect bicycling and walking as well. Deeper cuts to public transit could force more people to seek alternative travel options, like biking. And, Detroit surveys say that adequate lighting and public safety are key requirements for residents to walk and bike more, especially at night.

One area of concern is will key city employees seek other employment during this tumultuous time. Traffic Engineering recently lost two designers to other opportunities. At least one will be able to be rehired. But again, Traffic Engineering doesn’t rely on the general fund. Filling other vacant staff positions under an EFM might not be challenging.

There is one EFM rumor that we know is false. Detroit’s EFM will probably not be the young cyclist with training wheels shown on the Governor’s EFM brochure.

What are your thoughts?

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.

2012 Michigan Natural Resource Trust Fund Grants

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

The 2012 recommendations for Michigan Natural Resource Trust Fund grants have been announced. There were just five in Southeast Michigan.

  1. Macomb County – Shelby Township, Riverbends Park to Macomb Orchard Trail Connection - $300,000 – Development to include trail connection from Riverbends Park to Orchard Trail.
  2. Macomb County – City of New Baltimore, County Line Road non-Motorized Pedestrian Path – $116,000 – Development to include completing the remaining section of pathway on County Line Road from the Crapeau Creek to Main Street.
  3. Macomb County – City of Fraser, McKinley Barrier-Free Park Improvements – $300,000 – Development to include universally-accessible barrier-free parking lot, sidewalk, walking path, basketball court and site amenities.
  4. Washtenaw County – City of Ypsilanti, River’s Edge Linear Park and Trail Development – $300,000 – Development to include multi-use trail, plaza, fishing pier, river overlook, signage and site amenities.
  5. Wayne County – City of Dearborn, Rouge River Gateway Trail Extension – $280,000 – Development to include 1/4-mile trail extension of the Rouge River Gateway Trail to connect to Ford Field Park.

This information is just the overview so it’s not easy determining exactly what each project entails.

The first couple Macomb county grants are for their 70-mile loop. The Shelby Township portion is part of the critical trail connecting the Metro Parkway to the Macomb Orchard Trail, Clinton River Trail, and Paint Creek Trails.

Many years ago Riverbends Park and Bloomer Park were the Rochester-Utica State Park. There used to be an old wooden bridge across the Clinton River that connected the two portions of the state park near the Yates Cider Mill. Governor Engler sold the state park to the city of Rochester Hills and Shelby Township. With the bridge falling into disrepair, it was eventually removed.

We’d much prefer seeing a new bridge rather than a sidepath along Avon Road and an unsafe crossing at 23 Mile Road. However, we also recognize that the sidepath would be completely within Macomb County and that does make implementation more expedient.

Rouge Gateway Extension

The Dearborn grant is welcomed news. Getting to the Rouge Gateway Trail head at Andiamo’s is not easily accomplished by bicycle at this time. Connecting to Ford Field makes a great deal of sense. Of course, connecting the Rouge Gateway down to Fort Street makes even more sense but has a much bigger price tag.

Of course these grants are merely recommendations at this point. In the past, the Michigan legislation simply passed the recommendations without politicizing the process. That all changed last year, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens.

Faye Nelson: Leading the RiverWalk effort

Thursday, June 14th, 2012

Continuing the topic of woman leading biking and walking improvements, BLAC Detroit magazine has this article on the Detroit Riverfront Conservancy‘s director, Faye Nelson.

One most impressive aspects of the RiverWalk is its public-private partnership model. We wouldn’t be able to bike or walk along much of the river if not for the Kresge Foundation, General Motors, DNR, MDOT, and many others. This is touched on during Nelson’s interview.

How do you respond to people who feel the focus on the riverfront is at the expense of other parts of the city?

No city tax dollars have been used. The Conservancy is a non-profit that has formed a public / private partnership. Private partnerships include the Kresge Foundation and its $50 million grant. There is the public collaboration with the Department of Natural Resources for Milliken State Park and Harbor, just to the west of Chene Park, the first urban state park in Michigan. Then there are the corporate contributions, like General Motors that spent $500 million renovating the Ren Cen, including building a riverfront plaza that it then donated to the Conservancy.

There is research showing the RiverFront is attracting people downtown, and they spend money downtown. Development is attracted to downtown by the RiverFront. We’re proud to say this project is helping to revitalize and sustain the entire city.

There is a minor downside to being so successful in getting private funding for biking and walking trails. When groups like the Alliance for Biking and Walking compile funding numbers to compare cities, they ignore private funding. That $50 million Kresge RiverWalk investment? General Motor’s $25 million RiverWalk investment? The Alliance purposely does not include that funding in their report and it makes Detroit look bad. That’s just one reason why groups like MTGA and others have declined to participate in their future reports.

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.