Assessing State Progress on Transportation Alternatives

Margo PedrosoIt’s hard to believe that it has been more than a year since Congress passed the transportation bill, MAP-21, which consolidated Safe Routes to School into the Transportation Alternatives program (TAP). Nine months into implementation, enough states have made decisions that we now have our first snapshot of what each state plans to do on Transportation Alternatives. Take a look at our brand new state-by-state chart examining TAP implementation to see what your state has done so far. Thanks to the Advocacy Advance team for working with us to collect and vet this information. (Note: As of 8/1/13, the chart and the blog numbers below have been adjusted to reflect new information from Arizona, Indiana, Massachusetts and South Carolina.)

It presents a pretty interesting picture – there is definitely a lot of change coming to most states specific to Safe Routes to School, but the large majority of states are planning to fully use their TAP funds and to retain their Safe Routes to School coordinators. And, there are still a number of states where decisions have yet to be made, so advocates need to keep the pressure on. Even in states where decisions have been made, advocates will need to keep an eye on their state to ensure that these commitments are respected not only this year, but in future years.

  • SAFETEA-LU Safe Routes to School funds – A total of 40 states still have at least some of their old Safe Routes to School funds left as of March 31, and these dollars are 100 percent federal funding, which are very valuable. Of these, 22 have set application deadlines to use these funds, six plan to use the funds in a future application cycle but haven’t set a date, nine will use the funds to supplement existing projects or contracts, two have not made a decision yet, and one (Oklahoma) does not plan to use their remaining funds.
  • Funding level for Transportation Alternatives – A challenge with the TAP program is that states are allowed to transfer up to 50 percent of their TAP funds to other transportation programs. Fortunately, 35 states have committed to fully use all of their TAP funds and will not transfer funds. Nine states have yet to make a decision, and seven have indicated they will transfer funds. We are disappointed in the decisions in Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah to transfer out and hope the DOTs will ultimately change their minds.
  • Adding money to Transportation Alternatives – On a happier note, 9 states – California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin – will be supplementing their TAP funds with other transportation dollars. Congratulations to advocates in these states who worked hard to make the case for the importance of this program.
  • Transportation Alternatives process – It is a fairly even split looking at how DOTs plan to implement Transportation Alternatives. A total of 22 states plan to combine Safe Routes to School with TAP to have one unified competition, 15 will retain Safe Routes to School as a standalone program, and 14 states have not yet decided. We are pleased that 15 states are keeping their Safe Routes to School program intact, and urge states that are combining their programs to ensure that applications and scoring decisions are done in such a way that Safe Routes to School infrastructure and non-infrastructure projects can fairly compete. And just about half of states – 26 in all – have set a deadline for their first TAP application. 
  • Staffing – We applaud nearly all states for retaining their Safe Routes to School coordinators. A total of 23 states will retain their coordinator full-time and 17 will retain the coordinator but add additional duties. Unfortunately, seven states (Indiana, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and Wyoming) will not retain their coordinator and 4 states have not yet made a decision.
  • Matching requirements – A big challenge for Safe Routes to School is the change from a 100 percent federally funded program to one that requires a 20 percent match from state or local dollars. Five states – Florida, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey and Ohio – will be using state funds to make up the match, and a sixth- Washington - providing some state assistance for the match, saving local communities from the struggle to find matching funds. Six other states have not yet made a decision on their matching policies. Seventeen states will require a cash match, and 22 states will allow in-kind contributions to make up at least part of the match.

We will be discussing the new Transportation Alternatives guidance, this chart, a new resource with best practices for MPO TAP applications and what advocates can do on our July 22 webinar, so plan to join us then!