January 8, 2010
Dear Chair Haggerty and MTC Commissioners,
As you know, the House has passed HR 2847, a “Jobs Bill”, which would include at least $550 million in transportation funding for the Bay Area. Information about this legislation will be presented to the Programming and Allocations Committee this coming Wednesday (January 13, 2010). As MTC prepares to be able to spend these funds quickly, we urge you to use the following four principles, described in detail below, to guide the investment of these new funds: maximize job creation, support focused growth, fix it for all, and maximize funding flexibility.
· Maximize job creation. The paramount purpose of this legislation is to create jobs. MTC should use current information about job creation to direct new federal Jobs Bill funding to maximize job creation. For example, a recently released study from Smart Growth America, What We Learned from the Stimulus, reports that ARRA funds spent on public transportation more effectively created jobs than stimulus funds spent on highway projects—Dollar for dollar, transit projects funded by the stimulus created twice as many jobs per dollar as investing in roads. In addition to creating jobs, investment in public transportation preserves jobs by enabling people to continue to get to work reliably. As you know, many of the Bay Area’s transit agencies are in the process of cutting services and raising fares, adding additional affordability pressure and access challenges to many Bay Area commuters who are struggling to retain their jobs. Additionally, the League of American Bicyclists have found that for every $1 million invested in an FHWA-approved paved bicycle or multi-use trail, the local economy gains 65 jobs.
· Support focused growth. As the Bay Area steps up to the challenge of SB 375 and successful adoption of the region’s first Sustainable Community Strategy, we should take advantage of new funding to support the goals of our future SCS: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support focused growth, and preserve and expand access for all. MTC should consider how these funds may support eligible PDA needs, for example, by directing funds to the TLC program to achieve the goal of $60 million/year for this program, and/or by prioritizing grants to support cities’ transportation projects within planned PDAs.
· Fix it for all: There are countless streets in the Bay Area that do not meet identified standards for pedestrian and bicycle access and safety. At the same time, the region’s local streets and roads (LS&R) face huge maintenance shortfalls. When MTC adopted its Complete Streets (also called Routine Accommodation) policy, the expectation was that the region and local municipalities would be partners in ensuring that regional funds be spent on projects that meet standards for pedestrian and bicycle access and improve and enhance this access. MTC should follow through on this intention by using these Jobs Funds efficiently by funding only those LS&R maintenance projects that also address bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvements that create truly complete streets. There are shovel-ready segments of the Regional Bike Network throughout the nine counties. For instance, MTC could fund implementation of shovel-ready segments of the Regional Bicycle Network or Countywide Bicycle Plans that overlap with local streets and roads maintenance projects, lessening the maintenance shortfall while investing in a legacy of a complete active transportation network.
· Maximize Flexibility of Fund Sources: To achieve the region’s goals for a healthy, livable, affordable Bay Area and to fulfill the previously outlined principles, it is tremendously important for MTC to use federal funding as flexibly as possible. For instance, there are FHWA funds that the region does not traditionally use for transit purposes, but that may legally be used this way. Similarly, although 10% of federal FHWA funds go to Transportation Enhancements, bicycle and pedestrian projects, programs that facilitate non-automobile travel, provision and utilization of mass transit and other traffic control measures are all eligible expenses for the remainder of FHWA funds as well under federal law.
Thank you for your consideration of these principles. We welcome your questions and would be happy to discuss all or any of these with you.
Bob Allen, Urban Habitat
Andrew Casteel, Bay Area Bicycle Coalition
Stephanie Reyes, Greenbelt Alliance
Carli Paine, TransForm