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FTA policy makes it easier to walk and bike to transit

The majority of the Federal Transit Administration’s grant programs allow money to be spent on the design, construction, and maintenance of walking and biking projects that “enhance or are related to public transportation facilities.” But how do they determine if such a relationship exists? Until now the FTA had used 1,500 feet from the transit stop or station as the rule of thumb.

Today, the FTA announced that “all pedestrian improvements located within one-half mile and all bicycle improvements located within three miles of a public transportation stop or station shall have a de facto physical and functional relationship to public transportation.” Apparently in response to public comments, the agency also stipulated that projects located beyond those distances can be eligible if walkers and cyclists could reasonable be expected to make longer trips.

Photo: Subway and bike, iStock, By Ethan Fink

This policy, which the League enthusiastically welcomes, recognizes that successful transit depends on safe and attractive first-and-last-mile access to stations and stops. Making bicycling and walking safe and attractive makes transit more accessible, practical and appealing. In addition, providing secure bike parking is cheaper than car parking.

When the FTA first proposed the policy in 2009, the League lent its voice in support:

The League of American Bicyclists welcomes the renewed emphasis on livability in the Department of Transportation, especially initiatives to diminish the barriers between the modal administrations within DOT and between USDOT and other Federal agencies. The ability of people to use a combination of walking, bicycling and transit is an essential component in the sustainable growth of cities in the United States.

We also recommended including funding eligibility for bike share programs. Here’s what the FTA had to say in response:

FTA agrees that bicycle sharing systems provide meaningful access to public transportation and help address the problem of the ‘‘first and last mile.’’ Moreover, bicycle sharing programs, like all forms of active transportation, provide numerous benefits, such as reduced carbon emissions and improved public health.

Federal Transit Law limits the use of FTA funds for ‘‘public transportation.’’ Historically, FTA has not included ‘‘bicycle’’ within the definition of ‘‘public transportation.’’ Therefore, while a grantee may use FTA funds to purchase aspects of a bicycle sharing system if those aspects are located near public transportation stops and stations, an FTA grantee may not use FTA funds to purchase bicycles.

We hope that this historical view changes as more and more public bikeshare systems connect travelers to bus, subway, and train systems. London, for example, includes it’s bikeshare program on its transit website.

The policy is good news and we hope that local transit agencies take full advantage of this opportunity to make their transit system more accessible. The following FTA funding programs can be used for capital projects to provide biking and walking access to public transportation facilities:



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