A New Year, A New Transportation Law: What Now?

We have been advocating together for three years for a new transportation bill that supports Safe Routes to School, walking and bicycling.  Now that Congress has passed the FAST Act and locked in funding for the Transportation Alternatives Program (or as it is now also known the STP Setaside), what should advocates be focusing on?

  1. Study up on the FAST Act:  While the FAST Act mostly leaves the Transportation Alternatives Program as-is, it’s still important to understand how it works and what changes were made. We’ve updated our legislative history to include the FAST Act and pulled together the most relevant resources from the FAST Act and MAP-21 to help you make sense of it all. And, join our January 14 webinar on the FAST Act and Safe Routes to School.

  2. Understand and influence your state and MPO implementation: It’s up to each and every Safe Routes to School advocate to monitor how your state or your metropolitan planning organization (MPO) is implementing the Transportation Alternatives Program.  Each quarter, we issue a new report documenting how states are progressing in using TAP dollars – see how your state is doing.  Visit your state’s TAP website or contact your MPO to see if competitions are happening and what kinds of projects are getting funded.  We’ve got profiles of great state and MPO implementation on our resources page if you need ideas on what to advocate for.  Reach out to me at margo@saferoutespartnership.org if you have concerns or praise about your state or MPO implementation.

  3. Keep the drumbeat going with policymakers: You are the best person to tell the story of Safe Routes to School and why it’s needed—and showing is better than telling! Get your mayor, school board members, members of Congress and other policymakers out to see your program in action. Think about how you talk about Safe Routes to School and use the right language to appeal to policymakers.

  4. Keep alert for other funding sources: Outside of transportation, Congress also just passed the new elementary and secondary education law, Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).  Congress included school health, physical education and physical activity programs as eligible uses of several “block grant” streams of federal education dollars. While it will take more than a year for these funds to become available and there are a lot of types of programs competing for limited dollars, we will be working to make sure Safe Routes to School is an eligible use of these dollars.  That will give local advocates the chance to work with school districts to build Safe Routes to School into their efforts to support safe and healthy students.

  5. Stay on our e-news list for updates: While Congress has completed its work on the FAST Act, the US Department of Transportation must now do the painstaking work of interpreting that legislation and spelling out the rules and guidance as to how the programs and policies actually work in the real world.  We will keep you informed as more information is available. For example, the FAST Act includes a new funding stream to support bicycle and pedestrian safety education and enforcement in states with higher safety risks; we'll let you know once there is a process for accessing those dollars.  

Thank you as always for your support of Safe Routes to School and for being an advocate for enabling kids and families to be healthy and safe!