The San Diego Association of Governments, the regional planning organization for San Diego County, recently approved a $200 million spending plan for bicycle facilities. The Early Action Program (EAP) provides funding to implement San Diego County’s Regional Bicycle Network High Priority Projects within 10 years as outlined in the San Diego Regional Bike Plan and the Regional Transportation Plan.
How does that $200 million over a decade for bike spending compare to other regions of California?
Under Federal law, each “urbanized area” must have a Metropolitan Planning Organization through which Federal highway funds are channeled. California law defines Regional Transportation Planning Agencies (RTPA) to perform similar functions. They usually are called a council of governments or association of governments, since the membership of these MPOs and RTPAs are composed of the local governments they represent. Every MPO has at least one RTPA, but every RTPA isn’t necessarily within the boundaries of an MPO.
The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is the Regional Transportation Planning Agency (RTPA) and Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for local governments in San Diego County. Federal and state funding for transportation projects for any urbanized area is channeled through these MPOs. In the San Francisco Bay Area, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission divvies out transportation funding for the nine counties and 101 cities that make up the Bay Area. The Southern California Association of Governments — the largest MPO in the nation with the unfortunate nickname “SCAG” — governs transportation planning and spending for the 18 million residents of Imperial, Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura Counties. Just for grins, we’ll also look at transportation spending in my area by AMBAG — the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments — which is responsible for San Benito, Monterey and Santa Cruz Counties.
San Diego bike spending
Currrently, SANDAG distributes about $3.2 billion per year for their “Regional Transportation Improvement Program” (RTIP), which designates spending for things like your big highway projects, carpool lanes, bus shelters, bridge repair, local street projects, sidewalk ADA ramps at intersections and bicycle infrastructure. The current four-year RTIP already allocates $79 million for bicycle projects, which works out to $19 million per year.
I don’t know if this ten year $200 million “EAP” is above and beyond the RTIP budget or not, but I’ll assume for now that this does not add new money to the bike funding budget. That works out to $20 million for bike projects per year for a population of 3.2 million people, or per capita bike spending of $6.25 per person per year. That’s not bad. San Diego cyclists are especially excited about this recent interest in funding bike projects because regional bike spending has historically been pitiful.
Southern California outside of San Diego
Now lets look at San Diego’s neighbor to the north in SCAG territory. This six county region plans to spend $305 billion on regional transportation projects from 2012 to 2035, with $6.7 billion designated for “active transportation projects.” Through this “active transportation” umbrella, this agency combines pedestrian and bicycle projects into a single category, so the bicycle spending is inflated a little compared to the other agencies I compare. $6.7B divided by 23 years divided by 18 million people is $16 per person. That’s a nice level of commitment for an American transportation planning agency of this size and complexity.
San Francisco Bay Area
The other California conurbation surrounds San Francisco Bay and the lower Sacramento – San Joaquin River delta and consists of the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Alameda, Contra Costa, Solano, Napa, Sonoma and Marin. This region’s 25 year plan allocates $4 billion for bicycle projects over the 25 year span of the current regional transportation plan, out of the total $215 billion transportation budget. That’s $80 million each year, or $11 per person.
Monterey Bay Region
I live here so I looked into my region’s transportation spending, too. AMBAG does regional planning for my sliver of heaven covering Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito Counties with a population of 750 thousand people. The current four year transportation plan shows $60 million in bicycle spending, which is 9% of the total $686 million transportation budget for this region. That’s $20 per person in bicycle spending each year.
Other California regions
Statewide, California spends $12 billion each year on transportation, of which $129 million — or one percent of the total transport budget — is now dedicated to active transportation.
What does bicycle spending look like in other regions of California? Metropolitan Planning Organizations are defined for Butte County, Fresno County, Kern County, Merced County, the Sacramento Area, San Joaquin County, San Luis Obispo area, Santa Barbara County, Shasta County, the Stanislaus Region, Tulare County. Other rural counties outside of MPOs still have RTPAs. Bicycle spending for these regions is left as an exercise for the reader.