Friday, January 8

Field Work Fridays: Proportionate Spending

I composed this piece a couple of days ago, but on Thursday a headline popped up in my social media feeds: $112 million cut from Transportation Cabinet budget--which linked to a WKYT news story. The biggest cut is $62 million for revenue sharing which is direct aid money to cities and counties.  I know first hand that most rural communities are already treading a razor's edge of need versus revenue.  They are constantly putting out a series of fires instead of engaging in sensible planning and routine maintenance.  Of course this directly affects the issues I will bring up in the following piece, but instead of rewriting it at this time I'll just let it ride and try to adapt my thoughts as the 2016 General Assembly session progresses. 
I’ve been in meetings with engineers, planners, and other transportation professionals and local officials where the discussion had drifted to bike-ped—or even just bike—issues, and funding comes up.  Invariably one or more of the good old boys of the nothing-but-highway building era says “building bike infrastructure is fine, but the funding has to be proportionate.”
Lord help us all if 1% of the population currently rides bikes and we suggest spending 1% or more of funding on bike infrastructure.  We can’t justify disproportionate spending…can I get an amen?
Except that for a few decades we’ve done exactly that.  We’ve overfunded the personal automobile, subsidizing the most environmentally and socially impactive mode of transportation possible at the expense of all others.  In most cases we’ve underserved even the low percentages of people who choose alternate modes.
Stephenson Trail, Berea, KY
Would it really hurt us to focus a slightly disproportionate amount of money on bike-ped for a year or two?  I’m not saying 50% of our transportation budgets, but why not 10%?  Even 5%.  Or why don’t we identify our local populations that are underserved through lack of bike-ped, transit, or other modes and double up on spending for a few years?
If cars are so important, and no one really wants to give them up, then diverting a little extra money to give the weirdos a few more choices couldn’t hurt, right?
I see people walking around my rural community all the time.  There are both those who walk out of necessity in all conditions and those who walk for recreation or health.  When you factor in those who do walk for non-transportation related purposes and those who would like to walk more for utility or non-utility then I would bet the farm that a majority of people wish there were more and better options to get out of the car.
I might lose the farm, but if that were the case then it would be time to give up anyway.
Here's an interesting piece compiling survey results from a proposed transportation sales tax measure by the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and a cool photo of what the Road to Biketopia looks like: Envision Tax Dollars Being Spent 


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