|AAA President and CEO Bob Darbelnet's position would eliminate critical programs that fund safe, convenient places to walk and bicycle. |
AAA, You Can't Have It Both Ways
The Mid-Atlantic chapter of the American Automobile Association (AAA) recently advocated for the elimination of critical, established programs that fund trails, walking and bicycling from the trust fund that finances transportation. AAA says it supports all types of transportation, but that doesn't square with the above position, which would divert money away from walking and bicycling and toward the highway system.
In response to many requests for clarification, AAA clubs around the country have told their members that AAA Mid-Atlantic, as an independent club, does not speak for them.
And while AAA Mid-Atlantic may not speak for other clubs, AAA National sure does!
And AAA National, which lobbies on federal issues for all AAA clubs, has adopted AAA Mid-Atlantic's stance that gas taxes should no longer fund any trail, walking, bicycling or transit projects, turning back the clock on decades of successful invesetments in balanced transportation options.
To make such a blatant statement while being asked by tens of thousands to take the very opposite stance is a huge slap in the face.
Since mid-September, more than 30,000 people have signed Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) petition calling on AAA to support the established funding sources that build our nation's trails, walking and bicycling infrastructure!
Many supporters have taken it upon themselves to go the extra step and contact AAA directly. While responding to these letters and denying our claims, AAA has uniformly failed to answer the critical, central question that defines our challenge:
AAA, do you support continuation of established trails, walking and bicycling programs as part of the Highway Trust Fund*?
Anything less than an explicit "Yes!" is a failure to support these crucial, wildly popular programs—programs that AAA says they support.
AAA, it's one thing to say you are pro-bike and mail out fliers using images of cycling to advertise your services. But it's another to also want to eliminate dedicated programs that help pay for safe places to ride your bike.
It's one thing for your regional AAA chapters to proudly support programs like Safe Routes to Schools. But local AAAs will have a hard time championing these programs after they've been cut for lack of funding.
AAA, you can't have it both ways. Our debate with AAA is about whether this fund should continue to support forward-looking balanced transportation systems or whether we should take away flexibility to meet community needs by turning back the clock more than 40 years. AAA may superficially point to the general fund as an alternative source, but that suggestion is completely unrealistic and disingenuous.
Please write to your region's AAA club and ask: "AAA, you can't have it both ways. Where do you stand on this issue?"
To do so, please follow these steps:
- Visit this "Contact AAA" page
- Enter your 5-digit ZIP code to find your local club
- You will be redirected to the local club's page. From there, find and select the "Contact" or "Contact us" page.
(Each club encourages feedback a little differently. Some may provide an e-mail address; others will supply a Web form for you to complete. Many of these Web forms will require a AAA member number; if you're a member, be sure to have that on hand.)
Here are a few ideas to consider when you write your message:
- Briefly discuss your driving and active transportation habits (e.g. while you may drive to work during the week, you like to ride your bike to the grocery store or for other errands, and walk to reach public transit or visit friends).
- Why do you value trails or other walking/biking infrastructure?
- Mention your desire for more such facilities in your community.
- Ask specifically if you can count on your AAA club to support the long-established sources of funding for trails, walking and bicycling from the Highway Trust Fund. This is the only conceivable way these programs will continue to be funded, and is the key question behind our campaign.
Send your message!
Thank you for all you've done so far! Please provide us feedback on any communications you have with AAA:
- Forward any communications you have with AAA to Kartik Sribarra, RTC's policy outreach manager, at email@example.com. If you wrote to AAA through a web form, this would require copying the text from that web form and pasting it in a separate email.
- Please also forward any responses you receive from AAA to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you so much! By keeping RTC informed of your conversation with AAA, we are better able to ensure that our messages are on-point and taken seriously by AAA.
* "Highway Trust Fund" is a misleading name dating to the 1950s founding of the Interstate system. It is a transportation trust fund that has supported transit for 40 years and trails, bicycling and walking for nearly 20 years.