Why State and Federal Transportation Dollars for Safe Routes to School Matter to Los Angeles County

jessica meanyIn Los Angeles County, the popular narrative says that everyone drives all the time, and transportation policy has largely reflected this social understanding. However, active transportation modes are a significant form of mobility, calling into question the truth of the dominant narrative.

As the County Transportation Commission, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is the primary agency responsible for planning, funding and operating a regional transportation system in which:

  • 19 percent of all trips made in Los Angeles County are completed on foot or by bicycle (2009 National Household Travel Survey: 17.6 percent walking and 1.4 percent bicycling);
  • 34 percent of Los Angeles County students walk and bicycle to school (2009 National Household Travel Survey); and
  • 39 percent of Los Angeles County roadway fatalities are people walking and bicycling (SWITRS 2010);
  • One percent (1%) of Metro’s funding is dedicated to pedestrian and bicycling projects (Metro LRTP 2009 p.15)

In order to better understand the funding sources and opportunities that exist for pedestrian and bicycling projects and to document the flow of current Los Angeles County transportation revenue streams, we have been researching, interviewing, and meeting with various experts and stakeholders for over six months throughout Los Angeles County. As a result we are pleased to share our findings in our research paper:

Transportation Finance in Los Angeles County: An Overview – February 2013

One of our key findings: Cities rely primarily on state and federal grant funding to build bicycle and pedestrian projects.  Much of the one percent of funding in Los Angeles County is comprised of California’s state and federal transportation dollars that are currently being discussed right now. While sales tax revenues fund the largest percentage of transportation projects in Los Angeles County, competing demands prevent most cities from dedicating significant portions of their local returns to pedestrian and bicycle projects. Those cities that have been most successful in building streets safe for walking and bicycling have primarily relied upon state and federal grants.