Would you prefer to live in a community where you had to drive everywhere for everything, or would you prefer to live in a community where you could walk, ride a bicycle, take public transportation, or drive to get to where you want to go?
This question is at the heart of the current debate over how transportation funds will be spent over the next few years. The U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee voted on February 2 to eliminate funding for nonmotorized transportation (e.g., bike paths and sidewalks) from the federal transportation bill working its way through Congress. The wildly imbalanced transportation bill also imperils federal support for public transportation systems.
In taking this approach, Congress took a giant step back. The 1970s and 1980s, when federal transportation legislation strongly favored investment in highway infrastructure. Not until 1991 was the funding legislation expanded to other options, with passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act. ISTEA broke from the past by including funding for mass transit and bicycle and pedestrian facilities. Since that time, about 20 percent of the highway trust has gone to support public transportation and about 2 percent of federal transportation funding has gone to various transportation enhancement projects primarily bike trails, sidewalks, and related facilities. [Continue reading …]