A Hard-Fought Win in the San Francisco Bay Area for Bicycling and Walking

Marty MartinezOn Wednesday, June 26, the Bay Area’s metropolitan planning organization (MPO), the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), voted to keep a requirement that cities and towns maintain Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committees (BPACs) to receive certain state funds. They also voted to strengthen this requirement, stipulating that BPACs review not only bicycle projects but also pedestrian projects.

This vote was a follow-up to a Programming and Allocations Committee vote earlier in the month to roll back a proposal to eliminate the BPAC requirement. (See blog post on the prior vote here.) This strong show of support by MTC for advisory committee review of bicycle and pedestrian projects will help us increase active transportation and create a healthier Bay Area!

Seventeen organizations came together to write a letter to the Commissioners expressing our opposition to any attempt to weaken the BPAC requirement, and our strong support for including pedestrian projects in the review process. You can see the letter here.

The proposal MTC voted on this week was part of a revision of the Transportation Development Act, Section 3 (TDA-3) program guidelines. Tying the existence of a BPAC to the state funding stream is an important strategy advocates have used to achieve policy advancement. In the Bay Area we also did this in regard to Complete Streets policies, ensuring that local jurisdictions that receive One Bay Area Grant funding have to pass a Complete Streets policy resolution in order to be eligible for the funding. 

In a time when MTC and the region are struggling to reach established goals for safety, physical activity, and climate protection, now more than ever the Bay Area needs a real commitment from MTC to push to support active transportation. In 2011, MTC set a goal of increasing daily bicycling and walking to an average of 15 minutes per person per day. But under all of the planning scenarios studied as part of the Plan Bay Area process, the region will fall far short of that goal.

In addition to voting to maintain advisory committees and provide pedestrian project review, MTC also voted to change the procedures for cities to receive an exemption from the requirements. The pre-existing exemption stipulated that cities under 10,000 population who have difficulty in locating a sufficient number of qualified members could apply to MTC for exemption from these requirements, and cities over 10,000 population could also apply for exemption from the requirements if they could demonstrate that the countywide BPAC, adequately provided for expanded city representation.

The new exemption language provides that city agencies of cities of any size can apply to MTC staff for an exemption if they can demonstrate that the countywide BPAC provides for expanded city representation. The practical effect of this change and how MTC staff will be providing exemptions is not clear at this time. We look forward to working with MTC commissioners and staff on appropriate enforcement of the requirement and to ensure active transportation is supported throughout the Bay Area!