The Safe Routes Partnership and the YMCA of the USA recently released Making Strides: 2016 State Report Cards on Support for Walking, Bicycling, Active Kids and Communities. These report cards have an entire section devoted to state funding for Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking that provides important information for advocates.
In this federal policy blog, we focus a lot on getting as much federal funding as possible for the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). However, once the funding is allocated, state departments of transportation have a lot of leeway in how and when they get those dollars out the door to support Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking projects.
The second section of each state’s report card, Safe Routes to School and Active Transportation Funding, is a good way to understand how supportive your state is being in how it is implementing the Transportation Alternatives Program and supporting Safe Routes to School. So, get your state’s report card, and let’s walk through each of the indicators in that section together. For more details on the scoring for each indicator, please take a look at the full Making Strides report. Please also note that the data for this section was collected in January 2016 and thus your state may have made progress in an area since then.
- Level of funds transferred out of TAP: States scoring anything other than 10 points have chosen to transfer at least some of their TAP funding to roads and bridges, rather than spending it all on Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking projects. States with a -10 point score are regularly transferring the maximum 50 percent of TAP funding to other uses.
- Held TAP competition: States scoring anything less than 10 points have not yet awarded at least two years of TAP funding out to projects, even though states now have three years’ worth of funding. States with a -10 point score haven’t even held a single TAP competition.
- Obligated state-controlled TAP funds: Obligation is the process in which the state DOT works with the selected project recipient to get through the regulatory aspects and contract for the actual implementation of the project. Low obligation rates mean projects aren’t actually getting built with TAP funding. States scoring 3 points or more have obligated at least 30 percent of their state-controlled TAP funding.
- Provides special consideration for high-need communities: States that score a 0 aren’t providing any extra points on applications or setting aside TAP funding to serve low-income communities.
- Provides matching funds for high-need communities: States that score a 0 aren’t providing any state funds to help low-income communities meet the 20 percent matching requirements for TAP projects, which can be a barrier.
- Provides special consideration for Safe Routes to School projects using TAP funds: States scoring 0 points do not provide any extra points or set aside funding to help make sure TAP funds go to Safe Routes to School projects.
- Obligated previous Safe Routes to School funds: While the old federal Safe Routes to School program has not received any new funding since 2012, some states haven’t fully obligated those dollars. States scoring less than 6 points have at least 30 percent of their Safe Routes to School funding still available, unspent.
- Dedicates state funding for Safe Routes to School: A handful of states have identified state funding sources to support Safe Routes to School; states scoring 0 points have yet to do so.
- Has state Safe Routes to School coordinator: It helps a great deal to have a dedicated staff person at the state DOT familiar with Safe Routes to School issues. States scoring 4 or 5 points retained at least a part-time Safe Routes to School coordinator.
- Provides technical or application assistance to Safe Routes to School initiatives: States scoring 0 points do not provide any technical assistance to help schools start Safe Routes to School initiatives, nor do they provide application workshops or assistance to help schools apply for funding.
I hope you now have a better sense of where your state may be doing well or where progress may be needed to make sure that TAP funds are getting out the door and supporting Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking projects. If there are areas where your state scored poorly, I encourage you to reach out to other advocates in your state to work together to encourage your state to improve. If you have questions, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.