Monday, April 08, 2013

Active Transportation is Gaining Traction in Harrisburg Funding Debate

For the past several months, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and PA Walks and Bikes have been participating in the Keystone Transportation Funding Coalition's effort to gain support and momentum for a new state transportation funding bill.

Our asks have been straightforward:
  1. Pass a comprehensive transportation funding bill this year.
  2. Create a bicycle/pedestrian program or office within PennDOT.
  3. Make active transportation central to the proposed "multi-modal" fund and ensure that biking and walking projects can be funded.
  4. Eliminate the #1 policy hurdle (the Bicycle Occupancy Permit) that prevents the installation of bike lanes on state roads outside of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. 
In partnership with Mission Readiness, the American Heart AssociationUrban Engineers and many others, we have been visiting state senators and representatives from Southeast PA (at least eleven), developing position papers, getting letters to the editors placed in various media outlets (Inquirer, Daily News, Pottstown Mercury News, Bucks County Courier Times, Doylestown Intelligencer, and Delco Times), and created an action alert that has generated 250 letters to 76 elected state representatives and the Governor.

In late March, a sign-on letter (see below) we helped Mission Readiness with was delivered to the Assembly urging them to make biking and walking part of the proposed multi-modal fund and to establish a PennDOT office or full-time position to address bicycle/pedestrian issues.

All of this advocacy is beginning to pay off.
Last week, representatives of Mission Readiness, the American Heart Association, Rails to Trails and the Bicycle Coalition met with Senator Rafferty, the chair of the Transportation Committee. He is expected to introduce his bill this week. Meanwhile, several news stories appeared last Thursday and Friday, which indicates that our message is getting through. The AP ran a story about the sign-on letter. The AP ran a second story after interviewing Senator Rafferty and PennDOT Secretary Schoch. NBC10 followed up the two AP stories with a local angle about how the multi-modal fund would help The Circuit and the implementation of Philadelphia's Pedestrian/Bicycle Plan.

The AP reported that Senator Rafferty "expects to unveil a bill in mid-April that will include both the funding and planning components the groups have advocated." It also quotes PennDOT Secretary Schoch as saying he is receptive to bicycling and walking. "I think we are interested in elevating our efforts on this," Schoch said. Walking and bicycling are "important components of our transportation system and investment plan. We're interested in doing it."

Now we await Senator Rafferty's bill to see if it contains the language we seek to make biking and walking an important component of a comprehensive multi-modal fund.