Why Congress Should Put More Data in the Hands of Planners
When developers build new shopping centers or apartment complexes, they rely on datasets and visualization tools that illustrate how people can get to and from these sites most efficiently and safely, including by bike. Unfortunately, state and local Departments of Transportation often do not have access to these private sector data tools that would show them how improved bike facilities would increase everyone’s ability to get places safely and quickly. The COMMUTE Act, a new bill in the Senate, aims to make biking better by creating a pilot program providing private sector accessibility data to transportation planners so they can make more informed investments in bike infrastructure.
Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) have co-sponsored this bipartisan legislation that will help federal, state, and local governments make more effective use of scarce transportation funding.
State transportation planners get data on car-focused congestion data, and local officials often make infrastructure investment decisions based on anticipated improvements to congestion due to freer flowing vehicles. The COMMUTE Act would change this status quo and offer planners data that would bring bikes into the conversation. Under the COMMUTE Act, pilot program areas would be given access data that will help them understand how building better biking networks can connect people to every day destinations like their jobs, school, grocery stores, and more.
Making data more available is critical. The COMMUTE Act would create a pilot project in five States, 10 metropolitan areas, and five rural areas to test how data can be used to optimize transportation systems across modes and communities, not just for cars in well-off areas. Access to this data can help states and communities make investments that provide bikeable and walkable options for people rather than only helping cars move more swiftly.
As cyclists, many of us use or collect data on our daily rides, whether commuting or enjoying the countryside. State and local planners should be able to use data, too, to see where reconnecting street grids, providing alternatives to limited access or high-speed roads, and building other infrastructure will increase the safety and enjoyment of people who bike and walk.