Presentation at the 2008 Active Living Research Annual Conference
Many Americans are inactive or do not participate in physical activity at recommended levels. One approach to increase population levels of physical activity is to encourage the incorporation of walking and bicycling into people’s daily routines. Providing safe and convenient places for walking and bicycling can remove potential barriers to participating in regular physical activity and promote active living.
Since 1991, increasing levels of public investment in bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure have resulted from major federal transportation legislation including the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA), the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), and the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). However, little attention has focused on factors associated with successful program implementation, patterns in the distribution of these benefits and characteristics of populations deriving these benefits.
Document successful implementation of federal transportation legislation and patterns of public investment in bicycling and pedestrian infrastructure across geographic regions and areas defined by population and demographic characteristics.
Federal obligations (i.e., funding) for bicycle- and pedestrian-focused projects were collected by year for each state between 1991 and 2004, corresponding to the implementation of ISTEA and subsequent transportation legislation. Data were gathered from existing systems including (primarily) the Fiscal Management Information System (FMIS) of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the US Census, the US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service and other state and federal agency websites.
Projects were identified in FMIS according to type (i.e., bicycle/pedestrian facilities, safety/education projects, and preservation of abandoned rail corridors), year of initiation, county and state of implementation, funding program, and legislative source. Federal programs included: Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ), Transportation Enhancements (TE), Transportation and Community and System Preservation Program (TCSP), Recreational Trails Program (RTP), High Priority Projects (HPP), and Surface Transportation Program (STP). State and county typologies and population characteristics were derived from existing measures (i.e. 2003 Urban Influence Codes; 2004 County Typology Codes) and from US Census 2000.
Outcome measures of successful implementation include state- and county-level total funding obligation (total funding) and funding per capita. Outcome measures of successful system-building included the total number of projects undertaken per county, and number of years when projects were initiated per county.
We examined the distributions of projects and outcome measures by year, by program type, by funding bill and across states, regions, and county types defined by population size and location (i.e., large metropolitan, small metropolitan, micropolitan (non-metro counties with urban cluster), and non-core (non-metro counties without urban cluster) and socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. Parametric and non-parametric statistical tests were used to test for differences in implementation and system-building by county, region, and socioeconomic characteristics. Statistical models were estimated examining associations between demographic, social and economic characteristics and typologies of counties and the outcomes of successful implementation and system-building.
Overall during the period of study, 10,012 bicycle and pedestrian-related projects were undertaken across states and in counties, totaling $3.17 billion in federal expenditures. The majority of projects were bicycle and pedestrian facility construction projects (95%) and funded under TEA-21 (56%). The total number of projects implemented differed by program type (73% TE, 8% STP, 7% CMAQ, 4% RTP, <1% through TCSP and HPP, respectively, 6% through other programs). Overall, 62% of US counties had one or more bicycle or pedestrian-related project. Likelihood of having a project in the county differed by county type, with micropolitan (OR=0.66 95% CI 0.50-0.87) and non-core counties (OR=0.27 95% CI 0.21-0.35) being less likely to have a project than large metropolitan counties. Compared with Northeast counties, Southern counties (OR=0.21; 95% CI 0.14-0.32) and those in the Midwest (OR=0.25; 95% CI 0.16-0.39) were less likely to implement a project, independent of county typology. Counties characterized by low educational attainment, persistent poverty of residents, or higher proportions of households with two or more vehicles were significantly less likely to have implemented projects, independent of both county typology and region. Among counties with bicycle and pedestrian projects, county typology and region explain approximately 17-20% of the variance in successful project implementation (total obligations) and indicators of system building at the county level (p <0.001).
From 1991-2004, bicycle and pedestrian-focused projects were undertaken through multiple federal funding programs. Significant opportunities to use federal transportation funding in support of active living investments exist. However, disparities in implementation and system-building outcomes were observed according to population size and location and socioeconomic and demographic indicators. Based on these findings, recommendations for public health and transportation professionals and policy-makers will be presented.
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation via Active Living Research