Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on November 16th, 2009 at 1:10 pm
The Obama Administration has taken a solid step in matching their “livable communities” rhetoric with action. A new proposal from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) would increase the radius around transit stops and stations where bicycling and walking infrastructure could be funded. The proposal showed up last Friday in the Federal Register and bike advocates and planners in the Portland area are already getting excited.
Current FTA regulations regarding what type of biking and walking projects can receive federal funding are vague and are limited to a “catchment area” (a defined area around a transit stop or station where biking and walking trips come from) that has never been geographically defined.
As the law stands now, in order to be eligible for federal funds, a transit agency must prove that a bike/ped facility has a “functional relationship” to the transit stop or station and that it must not extend beyond “the distance most people can be expected to safely and conveniently walk to use the transit service.” That distance has typically been set at a mere 1,500 feet. Now the FTA says that distance is too short; and they’ve also clarified the language around bike projects as well.
Here’s the proposed policy:
“… all pedestrian improvements located within one-half mile and all bicycle improvements located within three miles of a public transportation stop or station shall have a de facto physical and functional relationship to public transportation.”
This proposed policy change is music to the ears of Michelle Poyourow with the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA). She said she’s been meeting with TriMet project staff over the past nine months to try and figure out why it’s been so hard to invest in bike lockers and bikeways to encourage more people to bike to transit. “One of the big problems I identified was this issue with the catchment area, which is just so small.”
FTA encourages the use of its funds for the type of well-designed pedestrian and bicycle amenities that attract new public transportation riders by expanding the catchment area and utility of public transportation stations.
— From the Federal Register listing of newly proposed policy
Poyourow said one local example of how this new policy might help a bikeway project get funded is with the new Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail line. That new line is being built an easy pedal away from the Springwater Corridor Trail. She said it also might help bring some bike parking to the Tacoma transit center, which already has plans for 800 car parking spaces.
Poyourow said the BTA will submit a formal comment to the FTA in support of this new proposal. “I’m delighted to see this happen. Someone else noticed the same thing we did… this is just fantastic.. this saved us a step.”
TriMet also plans to send in comments to support the new policy. Bike planner Colin Maher told us during a phone interview this morning that they’re “excited” to see the FTA acknowledge the value of bike access to transit.
Maher pointed out that a survey they completed in June 2008 showed that the average distance people bike to a transit stop is two miles, which would be well within the FTA’s new project funding radius. While Maher says TriMet is in support of the new policy, he said it’s still too early to tell what the implications might be.
Download a PDF of the FTA’s Policy on Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvements.