Word just came in from the Department of Transportation that the U.S. Congress will later today receive the much-anticipated report detailing the measureable impacts of the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP).
Established and funded by federal transportation legislation SAFETEA-LU (Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users) in 2005-and with management support from Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC)-NTPP set aside $100 million for biking and walking infrastructure in four communities of varying size across the country. The purpose of the program was to accurately demonstrate how such investments equate to significantly higher levels of walking and bicycling and reduced vehicle miles traveled.
We have already witnessed how each community's $25 million investment in bike lanes, trails and sidewalks has returned a myriad benefits, not just helping people get from A to B but also increasing physical activity levels and energizing downtown shopping districts. These effects were hailed by everyone from business leaders and elected officials, to health workers and teachers, in the four pilot communities: Columbia, Mo., Minneapolis, Minn., Marin County, Calif., and Sheboygan County, Wis.
"Now, it will be great to see those outcomes reflected in hard data," says Marianne Fowler, RTC's senior vice president of federal relations, and one of the architects of the NTPP. "Not just in terms of additional bike and pedestrian pathways, but in terms of how many miles of driving were averted, and how many people shifted from auto trips to active transportation because of these investments."
The report on the impact of the NTPP, which will not be made public for about a week, arrives in Congress at an opportune time. With opponents of walking and biking infrastructure claiming it is a frivolous use of transportation funding in these tough economic times, the testimony of state and local leaders as to their cost-efficiency and effectiveness, and data supporting their improved functioning of transportation systems, will be welcome messages.
RTC will make the NTPP report available as soon as it released.