Funding for active transportation can take different forms, from dedicated appropriations to major transportation bonds that fund multiple modes of transportation such as cycling, walking, transit, trails and cars. It can also come from sources other than transportation, such as parks.
Because funding is so varied, the Policy Hub is organized by topic areas to make it easier to explore and uncover ideas that may work in your community. For example, a bill that funds trails through gas taxes or other transportation-focused revenue sources would be listed under Transportation, whereas a bill that funds trails through parks or natural resources would be listed under Parks.
Although the Active Transportation Policy Hub focuses on state and local funding, federal funding pertains to state or local policy that involves federal funds (such as matching funds or federal financing like TIFIA, the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act). Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has more resources—including types of federal funding—in the State and Local Government Funding section and the Obtaining Funding for Active Transportation section of the site. State profiles of relevant federal funding are available on the Transportation Alternative Data Exchange (TrADE) website.
The following is an exploration of the types of funding sources that are included in the Active Transportation Policy Hub, with links to search results for each.
Securing a portion of the state gas tax—or an increase in the gas tax—is a common model for funding active transportation and other multimodal projects. However, some states have constitutional or statutory restrictions on using the gasoline tax, vehicle fees or other transportation revenue on purposes other than highways. Such restrictions may prohibit the use of gas tax funds for any cycling infrastructure, or it may limit spending to on-street bike lanes and sidewalks, excluding trails and greenways. We recommend consulting a legislative drafting attorney or policy expert in your state for a more definitive answer.
A local option refers to state policy that authorizes local communities (such as by voter referendum) to impose a local tax or fee for a specific purpose, such as local sales tax for transit and active transportation.
A special committee refers to any policy creating a committee, commission or study. These bills generally do not appropriate funding for specific projects.
A budget bill is funding that is part of an omnibus budget bill—such as an appropriations rider—as opposed to a stand-alone bill.
Transit-oriented development (TOD) is often tied to economic development and emphasizes mixed-use and more dense development surrounding transit hubs. Active transportation can be an explicit goal or benefit of TOD since it tends to make areas more bikeable and walkable.
TAP is the federal Transportation Alternatives Program. This is the main program that funds trails and other bicycle and pedestrian projects across the country, including projects formerly funded under Transportation Enhancements (TE) as well as Safe Routes to School and the Recreational Trails Program. Learn more about TAP in the Obtaining Funding for Active Transportation section of the site. To see individual state spending of TAP funds, see RTC’s Transportation Alternatives Data Exchange (TrADE) database.
TIFIA, or the Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act, is a federally managed program that provides low-interest loans to communities for transportation projects. In some cases, state infrastructure banks (generally housed within a state department of transportation) can facilitate or guarantee this financing for projects spanning multiple communities. For more information, see RTC’s resources on TIFIA.
RTP is the federal Recreational Trails Program, the cornerstone of America’s trail movement. RTP provides a minimum threshold of trails funding to each state to protect ongoing maintenance and operation of trail systems from fluctuations in state budgets. Through grants awarded to local trail-building organizations, RTP funds the development and maintenance of recreational trails (paved and unpaved) and facilities for motorized and nonmotorized uses including hiking, bicycling, equestrian use, ATV/dirt bike riding and other recreational uses. RTP grants are flexible in their permitted uses and may be funded through TAP. See RTC’s primer on RTP for more information.
Safe Routes to School is a national program encouraging safer biking and walking infrastructure for children. Currently, Safe Routes to School programs may be funded through TAP. Learn more about Safe Routes to School.