Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Is federal funding for sustainable transportation screwed?

Graphic credit: Transportation for America.

The Stranger, Seattle's alternative newsweekly, has a wonderfully profane article listing their political endorsements for yesterday's election, but as much as I would like to write that way about the state of the Federal Transportation Bill, I cannot...

There are some good pieces out there about MAP-21, "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century," the proposed federal transportation bill which would replace the most recent SAFET-LU bill.

Since the first transportation enhancements oriented bill in the early 1990s, the Federal Transportation funding system has also included a variety of funding streams for enhancements, including bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

The pro-automobile lobby has systematically fought and denigrated these programs. With the loss of several pro-sustainable transportation members of Congress in the 2010 election, and the shift of control of the House of Representatives to the Republican Party, sustainable transportation programs, including transit and high speed railroad programs, are under even more fire, although bike and pedestrian programs even more so.

This is exacerbated out of a refusal to increase the federal gasoline tax, which has not risen in almost 20 years, and in constant dollar terms, has lost 50% of its spending power due to inflation (improvements in fuel economy as well as the slow increase in the number of alternative fuel vehicles also reduces the amount of money collected by the gas tax).

In this political climate, the pro-road contingent points to various reports about the state of the country's road and bridge infrastructure, and claims that because of reduced revenues--not taking responsibility for the unwillingness to maintain gasoline excise tax revenues through increases--bicycle, pedestrian and other transportation enhancements have to be chucked.

The NRDC Switchboard blog, in "MAP-21: Forward Progress from Senators Boxer and Inhofe," is a particularly good piece about what's going on.

Basically, they aren't throwing out biking and pedestrian improvements specifically, although such programs face a 30% cut anyway, but by consolidating programs, creating some performance criteria, but failing to include environmental and other criteria, not requiring balanced transportation, but focusing mostly on the highway network, things aren't looking good for sustainable transportation.

But, the saving grace is that they could be worse, a lot worse.

However, it's pretty bad, and impossible to sugarcoat.

It's not a surprise that we are a country without transportation vision, but it still is painful to have to admit.

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