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MAP21: Looking Back, Looking Ahead

This is cross-posted from the Advocacy Advance blog. It’s written by Christy Kwan.

The current federal transportation bill, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) was a two-year bill that started on October 1, 2012. Two years later, MAP-21 was set to expire on October 1, 2014 but has received a slight extension through May 31, 2015. This week, Advocacy Advance held a webinar looking back on MAP-21, and looking ahead to what’s next for federal transportation funding for bicycling and walking.

This webinar featured:

  • Darren Flusche, League of American Bicyclists & Advocacy Advance partnership
  • Matthew Colvin, Safe Routes to School National Partnership
  • Caron Whitaker, League of American Bicyclists

Download the combined presentations (PDF). 

Looking back

MAP-21 featured several themes, including consolidating programs from the prior transportation bill into the current Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) and gave states more flexibility on how to spend TAP funds. Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) were also given the opportunity to run their own TAP competitive processes for project selection. To learn more about how TAP flows from the federal level to your community, see our PDF flow chart infograph.

To ensure that biking and walking is a continued priority, Advocacy Advance worked with contacts in all 50 states to ask state departments of transportation to:

  • Fully fund, staff, and implement TAP
  • Maximize funding opportunities in other funding programs for biking and walking
  • Fully spend remaining funds from prior programs

Implementation was slow to start, but models are emerging

With the new rules from MAP-21, state DOTs and MPOs took some time to establish their competitive grant processes for TAP funds. With state DOTs, unfortunately nearly 20 states have opted to transfer funds out of TAP for other uses. See how your state is implementing TAP (PDF). 

With MPOs, some models of regional grant applications emerged. To highlight these models, Advocacy Advance convened a MPO working group and produced a guide to help other MPO staff across the country set up their competitive application processes.

In one such example, the Northwestern Indiana Regional Planning Commission established target areas, including spending 80% of its total TAP funds on pedestrian and bicycle projects. The application also used a set of question to identify projects that would have the greatest impact on the mobility of the most people, awarding the most points if the proposed project enhances the regional trail network. For more details on these model TAP application processes, please see the compiled resources and reports specifically for MPOs.

Matthew Colvin, Federal Policy Manager at the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, gave a sneak preview of a report to be published early next week in conjunction with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation called “Safe Routes to School: How States are Adapting a New Legislative Framework.” Similar to TAP funding, implementation and funding of Safe Routes to School projects has been slow, with many states yet to complete their first application cycle. The report takes a deeper look into ten states and the implications that TAP has had on the Safe Routes program.

Listen in on Darren’s presentation about MAP-21 generally, and Matthew’s presentation specifically about Safe Routes to School for more details.

Looking ahead

In recent months, safety has received a big emphasis from the U.S. Department of Transportation. In September, US DOT unveiled “Safer People, Safer Streets,” an 18-month bike/ped initiative aimed to help communities create safer, better connected bicycling and walking networks. Some of these efforts include walk and bike assessments from FTA, FHWA, and NHTSA field offices in all 50 states to document items that are working and not working; a road diet guide; and updates to the pedsafe/ bikesafe websites to assist practitioners with improving safety via engineering, education, or enforcement treatments.

As for the next transportation bill, in 2015, the United States will have a different Congress, but the same problem of figuring out how to pay for the transportation bill will remain. For various reasons, it seems unlikely that the next transportation bill will happen until after the 2016 Presidential Election.

Listen in to Caron’s presentation for more details and what to expect in 2015 and beyond

The big picture

With MAP-21 expiring, it’s important to note that waiting for a new, better bill is not the answer. Agency staff should still maximize every opportunity available to fully fund, staff, and implement TAP, including Safe Routes to Schools funding. Many regions throughout the United States are still pulling together calls for applications and should refer to the Advocacy Advance guide on models regional TAP applications, and the forthcoming Safe Routes to School National Partnership report highlighting state profiles in implementing Safe Routes to School.

Advocates should continue to work with their local DOTs to ensure that TAP funds are spent and not transferred. If funds have been transferred, it’s important to note that transfer can be undone and transferred back into TAP. Advocates should also continue to be prepared and continue to build relationships. This includes thanking DOTs for the progress that has been made and for the projects that have been awarded, as well as continuing to build support from elected officials – especially with mayors and their allies in Congress. This is the time to invite elected officials to help kick the momentum for bicycling and walking.

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