National Policy and Advocacy
A key focus of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership is to serve as an advocate for Safe Routes to School and related issues with Congress and the federal government and to monitor implementation of Safe Routes to School funding. Because Safe Routes to School affects communities in so many ways, our legislative priorities include transportation, education, health, and the environment.
Below you will find the latest information on the National Partnership’s legislative priorities and calls to action. You can explore the links on the left for more detailed information on legislative priorities, implementation, policy background, and a toolkit to help you engage Members of Congress.
In late June 2012, Congress passed a new transportation bill, MAP-21, that makes significant changes to funding for bicycling, walking and Safe Routes to School. We have assembled a wealth of materials on this new legislation and its impact on Safe Routes to School in our MAP-21 Resource Center.
Latest News and Information:
Enough is enough - ask Congress to end rising rates of bicycle and pedestrian fatalities
November 18, 2013: Bicyclists and pedestrians now represent 16.3 percent of all traffic deaths, yet states spend just 0.4% of their safety dollars on bicycle and pedestrian safety. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership applauds Sens. Merkley (D-OR), Ayotte (R-NH) and Schatz (D-HI) and Reps. Blumenauer (D-OR), Coble (R-NC), DeFazio (D-OR) and McCaul (R-TX) for introducing legislation (S. 1708 / H.R. 3494) to require USDOT to set a non-motorized safety performance measure. This is absolutely critical to ensure that every state sets targets for reducing bicycle and pedestrian deaths and uses safety money to make it safer for bicyclists and pedestrians. Learn more in our latest blog, and then contact your members of Congress to ask them to co-sponsor these bills.
States start to max out available Safe Routes to School funds
November 7, 2013: The lastest quarterly State of the States report shows that awarded funds are slowing, with just $13 million in new awards made, as more than one-third of the states have spend more than 90 percent of available Safe Routes to School funds and are shifting to the Transportation Alternatives program. On the other end of the scale, nine states have used less than 60 percent of their available funds, meaning there are still areas of the country in which new Safe Routes to School funds could be awarded. However, it's important to continue to focus on obligation so that awards result in projects being built and implemented. In the last quarter, states obligated $26 million.
Reading the tea leaves for the next transportation bill
November 4, 2013: Congress resolved the government shutdown after two weeks, but only funded the government until January 15, 2014. Congress is undertaking budget negotiations on how to fund the rest of the fiscal year. While we’d hoped those negotiations would be broad and include a funding solution for the hole in the highway trust fund, that now seems unlikely. So, in less than a year, Congress will have to resolve a major funding hurdle to continue funding for surface transportation, including Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking. In our latest federal policy blog, we read the tea leaves from the budget talks and try to take lessons from a recent water infrastructure bill that passed the House with hugely bipartisan support.
The Federal Government Shutdown and Transportation Spending
October 8, 2013: The federal government shutdown is in its second week, and our thoughts are turning to what the shutdown means for the reauthorization of MAP-21, which expires a year from now. How the current shutdown is resolved will have implications for what’s possible in the next transportation bill for Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking—and whether or not a year from now, we see a similar shutdown in transportation spending. Read our latest federal policy blog for more details.
USDOT plans for the next five years
September 4, 2013: As Congress is in recess for the month of August, Capitol Hill has been quiet since our last update. However, the US Department of Transportation is planning for the future and seeks input on their draft strategic plan for FY2014-2018. Read our latest federal policy blog for more details on our reaction and input, and then take a few moments to visit the USDOT online dialog to provide your own input and vote for other helpful comments.
States continue to use remaining Safe Routes to School funds
August 19, 2013: In our latest quarterly State of the States report, we are pleased to note that states continue to award and obligate their remaining Safe Routes to School funds. Over the past quarter, states allocated $24 million in new awards, leaving $206 million yet to award, and states obligated $50 million. We encourage you to review the State of the States, and then look at your state's plans for how they will implement Transportation Alternatives specific to Safe Routes to School.
Fending off Congressional Threats to Safe Routes to School Funding
July 30, 2013: It is the House of Representative's turn to work on transportation spending, with action taking place this afternoon and late into the night. We are concerned that there may be an amendment to damage the Transportation Alternatives program, so will be watching closely. Please stand ready to call your Representative tomorrow morning - we will let you know if your help is needed. And check our blog for the latest updates as well. (Note: Both the House and Senate transportation spending bills were pulled from consideration due to lack of votes before any problematic amendments were offered; additional details are in the blog)
Contact your Senators to Save Transportation Alternatives
July 24, 2013: Sen. Paul of Kentucky has introduced an amendment to the transportation appropriations bill that would prohibit any funding from being spent on Transportation Alternatives, and redirect it to bridge repair. Join us in asking Senators to vote no on this amendment.
Helping MPOs Make Best Use of Transportation Alternatives Funds
July 22, 2013: Under the MAP-21 transportation law, large Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) now receive a portion of the Transportation Alternatives funds, with which they must run a competitive process. Take a look at this new resource from Advocacy Advance in collaboration with the Safe Routes to School National Partnership to spotlight examples of competitive grant processes that can help inform MPOs seeking to develop Transportation Alternatives competitions. The National Center for Safe Routes to School has also released a white paper summarizing interviews from MPOs about Transportation Alternatives.
Assessing State Progress on Transportation Alternatives
July 12, 2013: One year later, we finally have our first snapshot of what each state plans to do on Transportation Alternatives. Read our blog and look at our brand new state-by-state chart examining TAP implementation decisions to see what your state has done so far.
Join us for a July webinar on Transportation Alternatives
July 2, 2013: Register for our webinar, "One Year Later: Where We Are on Transportation Alternatives." It takes place on Monday, July 22 at 2pm EST for one hour. In this webinar, learn the details of the brand-new guidance issued by the US Department of Transportation on how states must implement the Transportation Alternatives program. And, hear more about the decisions each state has made on how much funding they will dedicate to bicycling and walking and how they will open up those application processes. Finally, learn more about the newest player in this grant program: large Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs). We will be unveiling and explaining a new resource of ideas and examples to help MPOs create a high-quality Transportation Alternatives application that will maximize Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking projects.
Assessing USDOT's final Transportation Alternatives guidance
June 13, 2013: This week the US Department of Transportation issued the final guidance and an updated Q&A on the Transportation Alternatives program. Read our analysis of the impacts of the new guidance and learn about forth-coming resources to help you advocate for your state and large MPOs to spend their Transportation Alternatives funds wisely!
Sizing up the Next US Secretary of Transportation
May 29, 2013: Within a few short weeks, we may have a new Secretary of Transportation—Anthony Foxx, the current mayor of Charlotte, NC. In this month’s federal policy blog, learn more about Mayor Foxx’s transportation priorities based on his work in Charlotte and his recent Senate confirmation hearing. And, we’ve included our recommendations for steps Secretary Foxx could take in his first 100 days at the US Department of Transportation to advance Safe Routes to School!
States award and obligate remaining Safe Routes to School funds at a brisk clip
May 29, 2013: Our latest State of the States quarterly report shows that states did a good job in the last quarter of awarding and obligating their remaining Safe Routes to School funds. States awarded $43 million in funds, leaving approximately $230 million left nationwide of Safe Routes to School funds, and obligated nearly $34 million.
National Partnership Reaches out to Mayor Anthony Foxx
May 9, 2013: Mayor Anthony Foxx of Charlotte has been tapped to become the new U.S. Secretary of Transportation. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership has sent a letter to Mayor Foxx congratulating him on all his work to create a walkable and healthy Charlotte, and to invite him to work together to advance Safe Routes to School, walking and bicycling once his nomination is approved.
National Partnership Submits Comments to Surgeon General on Walking
April 30, 2013: The Surgeon General plans to issue a call to action on walking next year, and asked for input on the best ways to advance walking and walkability. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership submitted comments documenting the impact of Safe Routes to School and recommending five actions the Surgeon General could take to advance Safe Routes to School and walking.
Understanding the Impacts of the Federal Budget on Safe Routes to School
April 26, 2013: Every spring, the President and Congress start the months-long process of setting spending levels for federal agencies and programs. In this month’s federal policy blog, learn more about proposed 2014 spending levels for transportation and health programs that affect Safe Routes to School. There is also a short update on implementation of MAP-21, including two state-level successes in Idaho and Michigan.
Rethinking how we talk about Safe Routes to School on the Hill
March 28, 2013: At the National Bike Summit this year, a consultant for the League of American Bicyclists presenting the results of in-depth interviews with Hill supporters and opponents about bicycling and policy. The findings from that study are applicable to how all of us talk about Safe Routes to School to policymakers at any level. Read more about the study findings and suggestions for Safe Routes to School messaging in this month’s federal policy blog. And put it into practice when talking to your mayors, city councilors and school board members!
The sequester and performance measures
February 28, 2013: You have probably been hearing a lot about the sequester—but what you may not have heard is that Highway Trust Fund programs, including Transportation Alternatives, are mostly exempt from the sequester. We are also actively working to secure a performance measure for bicycle and pedestrian safety. These performance measures will drive state spending for the foreseeable future, and with bicycle and pedestrian fatalities increasing and states spending next to nothing on bicycle pedestrian safety, it is a critical battle. Get more on the sequester and performance measures in this month’s federal policy blog.
State obligations slow for the first quarter of FY13
February 15, 2013: Award and obligations for Safe Routes to School followed a common trend, in which the first quarter of a fiscal year shows a slowdown. For the first quarter of FY2013, states awarded $12.7 million in Safe Routes to School funding and obligated $14.5 million. While the numbers were low, two-thirds of states did obligate funds, showing continued progress.
Putting safety at the forefront of Transportation Alternatives
January 14, 2013: Read our latest blog about how to make the case to your state department of transportation to supplement Transportation Alternatives with funding from the Highway Safety Improvement Program to protect Safe Routes to School funding.
FHWA releases full funding charts for Transportation Alternatives
January 11, 2013: The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has released the full funding tables for all transportation programs, including Transportation Alternatives. Now, any of the larger metropolitan areas that can run grant competitions under Transportation Alternatives can see exactly how much funding they will receive. Advocates should make sure they are reaching out to their metropolitan planning organizations to discuss their plans for the Transportation Alternatives competition. The other major item we are waiting on from FHWA is the final guidance for Transportation Alternatives and the sample application best practices.
Summing up 2012 and Looking to 2013
January 2, 2013: After years of delay, in June 2012, Congress passed a new transportation bill, MAP-21. This legislation made significant changes to funding for bicycling, walking and Safe Routes to School. The federal Safe Routes to School program, which existed from 2005 to 2012, has now been combined with other bicycling and walking programs into a new program called Transportation Alternatives. There is less funding available for Transportation Alternatives than for the programs that were consolidated, and there is no longer dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School. This leaves each state Department of Transportation with discretion about whether to fund Safe Routes to School projects, and how much funding to dedicate to these initiatives. In addition, the Metropolitan Planning Organizations for larger cities (population of 200,000 or more) will also receive funding through Transportation Alternatives that they can provide for Safe Routes to School, bicycling and walking projects. You can read more about MAP-21 in our MAP-21 Resource Center, and if you want to learn the details in how the law came about, please visit our legislative news archives.
This is clearly a new day for Safe Routes to School. Action now shifts to the states, which will be making decisions about funding levels and processes. We are working closely with our colleagues at Advocacy Advance to track each state's decisions and to support state-by-state campaigns, but we need your help too. We urge all Safe Routes to School advocates to join your state's campaign to fully fund Transportation Alternatives. To do so, contact the campaign lead for your state.
In addition, the US Department of Transportation has a critical role to play in interpreting MAP-21. We expect final guidance on Transportation Alternatives to be issued soon, and rules and regulations will be issued over the coming months that affect regulatory burden, the ability of bicycling and walking projects to compete for safety funds, and overall performance measures. We continue to work with the USDOT to make them aware of the needs of Safe Routes to School supporters.
Finally, Congress is about to start a new legislative session. A new session means newly elected Members of Congress, new Committee assignments and a fresh start on all legislation. In the coming months we will be educating these Members of Congress about the importance of Safe Routes to School, the impact of MAP-21 on Safe Routes to School initiatives, and improvements we'd like to see when MAP-21 is reauthorized. Stay tuned for more information.
We will continue to provide updates here and on our blog as progress is made in Congress, with USDOT, and in the states. Welcome to 2013!