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Advocacy Advance: Rapid Response Grantees

This post originally appeared on the Advocacy Advance blog. Learn more here.

Thanks to the generous support from the SRAM Cycling Fund and REI, Advocacy Advance offers Rapid Response Grants to help state and local advocacy organizations to win, increase, and preserve public funding for biking and walking in their communities. In 2014, Advocacy Advance supported 18 biking and walking advocacy organizations with our standard Rapid Response Grants, as well as an additional three “Big Idea” campaigns announced last month. While many of these Rapid Response campaigns are still underway and with some Rapid Response Grant funds still available, here are the highlights and lessons learned from completed Rapid Response campaigns in 2014.

This year, Advocacy Advance supported three completed campaigns from biking and walking advocates seeking to win active transportation dollars through sales tax ballot measures for transportation. Stay tuned next week for four additional campaigns seeking to increase active transportation funding through policy or legislative campaigns. 

Bicycle Colorado

Bicycle Colorado worked with other transportation and environmental partners in Colorado to determine if voters would approve a 0.7% sales tax increase to fund transportation projects, if it were included on the November ballot. To determine the feasibility of the ballot measure, the coalition conducted a poll in January 2014. By working with the coalition partners, Bicycle Colorado included questions about biking and walking investments in the poll. The poll found that voters were highly unlikely to support any tax increase for transportation in the November election. However, the poll did demonstrate 83% of respondents supported Safe Routes to School programs – more than any other transportation expenditure – followed closely at 72% supporting general bike/ped infrastructure.

The poll’s results helped build Bicycle Colorado’s voice to increase funding for biking and walking in the state. Bicycle Colorado used the poll results to demonstrate the support for key biking and walking programs, such as Safe Routes to School. In May 2014, the Colorado legislature passed a bill that allocated $700,000 of general tax revenues to fund Safe Routes to School programming in 2015. Then in October 2014, the joint transportation committees of the state senate and house voted to introduce legislation in January 2015 to fund $3 million of Safe Routes to School infrastructure and non-infrastructure programs.

On June 3, 2014, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper signed HB1301 into law, funding the state’s Safe Routes to School program. Photo courtesy of Bicycle Colorado.

“The Rapid Response Grant provided Bicycle Colorado the funds to be a participant for the first-time ever in the beginning stages of planning new transportation funding,” said Bicycle Colorado Executive Director Dan Grunig. “While the outcome determined voters would not support an increase in tax for general transportation funding, bicycle and pedestrian programs and infrastructure were the highest priorities expressed by voters.  The importance voters place on safe, connected travel by walking and bicycling will add to our growing business and economic case for better investments in biking and walking in Colorado.“

Bike Walk Greenville

Bike Walk Greenville in South Carolina worked with other partners in Greenville County to support a one-penny sales tax ballot measure to fund transportation projects. If approved, the sales tax would have lasted for eight years or until more than $673 million was raised from the tax. Of the total revenue, $47.6 million would have supported biking and walking. Unfortunately, voters did not approve the ballot measure this past November.

poll in 2013 showed that 75% of respondents agreed that elected officials should support funding for a variety of transportation projects, including improvements not only for roads, but also for bicycle, pedestrian, and transit improvements. The poll and supportive letters to the editor convinced the Greenville County Council to let voters decide on the sales tax ballot measure, as well as appointed a citizen commission to compile a list of eligible projects to receive funding.

In preparation for the November election, Bike Walk Greenville partnered with other organizations like Upstate Forever, the Greenville Chamber of Commerce, and the Home Builders Association to rally support for the measure.  To inform voters about the bicycling and walking projects to be supported by the ballot measure, Bike Walk Greenville created maps of each of the Safe Routes to School Projects to be funded (PDF), as well as numerous other resources to help garner support from voters.

“Despite the loss of the election, we reached thousands of people in Greenville County about the need to support active transportation,” said Frank Mansbach, Executive Director at Bike Walk Greenville.

Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition

Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition (SBVC) moved swiftly to be a part of the discussion when civic leaders in Santa Clara County, California were coming together to plan a 0.25% sales tax increase for transportation projects – including a potential expansion of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) to San Jose – in the November 2014 election. The proposed increase would yield an estimated $3.7 billion over 30 years to fund transportation in the County.  SVBC recognized the opportunity to also potentially win a dedicated percentage of funding for bicycling and walking.

SVBC met with local business leaders, such as representatives from Apple, Google, and Suffolk Northern, as well as spoke at a San Jose Council meeting to build support for funding bicycling and walking improvements.

In the end, civic leaders at the local metropolitan planning organization (in California, they are sometimes called Congestion Management Agencies, or CMAs), Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, decided to move the ballot measure to November 2016 to continue to build support and to craft a stronger transportation ballot measure. In the meantime, SVBC has continued to build relationships with their local civic and business leaders. In addition, SVBC helped the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority create stakeholder groups of community leaders to provide guidance on matters of importance to the local nonprofit community, including giving early input into the next sales tax measure.

Working on a bicycling and walking advocacy campaign? Read more and learn how to apply for a Rapid Response Grant. Also check out our report, “Success at the Ballot Box: Winning Bicycle-Pedestrian Ballot Measures” for additional lessons learned from bicycling and walking advocates.

Stay tuned next week for completed 2014 Rapid Response Grants – Policy and legislative campaigns.

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