March/April 1999, p.8

Bike / Ped Funding Disaster Looms in NYC
TEA-21 Pork Barrel Fest Produces Few Crumbs and Abysmal Showing by NYC Government

Despite the 1998 passage of the Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), the biggest transportation bill in U.S. history, New York City bicycle and pedestrian projects face a dire future. T.A. estimates bicycle, pedestrian and traffic calming projects will get only half a penny on the dollar, or $65 million, of the $13 billion slated to be spent by transportation and transit agencies in New York City from 1998 to 2002. Contrast this dismal effort with last July's detailed request by T.A. and a host of leading civic and environmental groups asking the transportation agencies to dedicate about $200 million (1.5% of transportation funds) to bicycle and pedestrian programs. The budgeting of Federal transportation funds by NYC, the MTA and the State DOT has again been marked by horse trading and little or no planning. The Long Range Plan of the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC), which includes goals like reducing driving and a lengthy section on bicycle and pedestrian improvements, and the 1997 NYC Bicycle Master Plan have again been largely ignored.

The bike/ped funding debacle is largely the fault of New York City government. The City DOT and the Mayor's Office have sought a paltry amount of bike/ped funding and have wasted scarce Federal funds slated for Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) on computerized traffic signalization schemes. Of the $350 million in Federal clean air funds available during the next four years, the City departments of Transportation and Planning have agreed to spend a meager 10% on bike/ped projects. Furthermore, in order to preserve its other Federal transportation funds, the City is meeting its state mandated contribution to transit by voting to give the MTA 60% of all clean air funds. This amounts to $220 million, a minuscule portion of the transit agency's $8.6 billion four-year budget, which effectively robs bike/ped projects of their most easily accessible funding.

Overall, not one dime of the billions in Federal transportation funds granted to NYC is going to bike/ped projects. The City DOT's laudable rhetoric about speed humps - which came in response to an onslaught of community requests for traffic calming and traffic relief - has not translated into money for traffic calming projects. Additionally, the City's slate of bike/ped projects remains pathetically short and underfunded.

While the City, especially the DOT and Mayor's Office, deserves much of the blame for putting the screws to non-motorized travelers, the Federal DOT and US Environmental Protection Agency have sat back and watched local transportation agencies skirt planning requirements. Unfortunately, the State DOT, a voting member of the NYC Transportation Coordinating Committee (NYTCC), has acquiesced to schemes to limit the bike/ped share of clean air funds. The State has also seriously damaged the Transportation Enhancement program, another prime source of bike/ped funding, by diluting public participation and creating a selection system biased against New York City.

The one positive trend in this whole mess is an effort by the State DOT Region 11 office to help fund City Parks Department greenway projects near State highways and its broad but vague offer to steer more safety funds to bike/ped projects. The State DOT deserves credit for these initiatives, but it seems unlikely that this is the "transportation revolution" Congress had in mind when it created ISTEA and TEA-21.

Write to Senators Moynihan and Schumer - tell them that the billions in Federal transportation money won by them is doing very little for New Yorkers who walk and bike.

Sen. Daniel Moynihan
464 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
email: senator@dpm.senate.gov

Sen. Charles Schumer
229 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Read the latest news on this subject.