BACs are here to stay (for now)

I had a particularly wonkish win yesterday.

Bear with me: yesterday morning, I learned that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission's Programming and Allocations Committee unanimously rejected a recommendation from staff that the Commission revise language in the TDA Article 3 funding requirements that would eliminate the requirement that municipalities with a population greater than 10,000 maintain a bicycle advisory committee (BAC) in order to receive said funding. Hooray!

Wha?

Like I said: wonkish. As the hip hoppers say, lemme break it down…

We like BACs and BPACs (bicycle and pedestrian advisory committees) and other public institutions in which roadway projects are reviewed by a panel of people who know a thing or two about biking and walking and the public has a chance to attend and offer input. We think it's important that, as our region pursues a “complete streets” paradigm and we all try to combat climate change and obesity, we give some serious, mandated attention to making our built environment accessible and comfortable for people who want to travel by bike or by foot.

TDA Article 3 (TDA-3) funding is a relatively modest source of funding for bicycle projects. It's money from the state that gets distributed to the Bay Area counties via the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). As with any funding, there are caveats, one of which is the aforementioned requirement that the municipality asking for the money has to run the projects past its local BAC (BPACs work as well).

Many of the BACs and BPACs that exist in our area today were originally formed to comply with this requirement. However, some municipalities have been working around the requirement by using their county's BPAC instead. This means that the projects are reviewed by people who don't live in the project community, and that members of the community would generally have to travel farther to a meeting they probably would not have occasion to hear about, if they want to learn more or share their input. We think this is not the best way to go about doing things.

So, when MTC staff wrote up a report recommending that the BAC requirement be scrapped from TDA-3, we were not happy hippos. Fortunately, we were not alone. While we wrote our own letter (PDF, 640 KB) to MTC staff expressing our concerns, Marty Martinez of Safe Routes to School National Partnership gathered 17 California and Bay Area organizations to co-sign a letter (PDF, 3 MB) to the Programming and Allocations Committee, which was scheduled to vote on the staff recommendation.

And it worked! Commissioners on the Committee (including Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese) voted unanimously against the recommendation. According to those at the meeting, the Committee also expressed the sentiment that if MTC has a requirement for funding, it better well be enforced. Could more BPACs be on the horizon?

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