Handy, S. & McCann, B. (2011). The Regional Response to Federal Funding for Bicycle and Pedestrian Projects: An Exploratory Study. Journal of the American Planning Association, 77(1), 23-38.
PROBLEM: The Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) gave metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) the opportunity to spend federal funds on pedestrian and bicycle facilities. Their responses vary dramatically, however, contributing to significant differences in the quality of the walking and bicycling environment across regions. PURPOSE: The purpose of this article is to identify factors that explain differences in the spending of federal funds for bicycle and pedestrian projects across MPOs. In addition, we consider whether federal support for bicycle and pedestrian projects has led to increased attention to these modes within the transportation planning process. With the next federal transportation authorization bill now under consideration, understanding the efficacy of federal funding for nonmotorized modes is of critical importance. METHODS: This article explores these questions through case studies of bicycle and pedestrian spending and policies in six metropolitan regions. RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS: Making federal funding available for nonmotorized modes has clearly increased bicycle and pedestrian projects across the United States, although more so in some regions than others. Support from local governments and advocacy groups is a key driver of MPO-level support for bicycle and pedestrian investments. State policy also plays a role in encouraging and supporting bicycle and pedestrian spending at the regional level, both directly and through its influence on local governments. Other unique regional factors have also influenced spending. TAKEAWAY FOR PRACTICE: Although the effectiveness of federal funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects has so far depended on state policy and local support, the next federal transportation authorization bill offers an opportunity to reduce this dependence. If the intent of the federal government is to increase spending on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, it can provide more direction and stronger leadership in promoting nonmotorized modes.