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:
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!