Yes, it was quite a year for RTC and the rail-trail movement.
Of course, we saw our fair share of challenges, but we also saw our work bear fruit; indeed, our collaborative energies helped make possible some amazing milestones for trail initiatives across the country. It’s impossible to talk about them all, but for a little year-end inspiration, here are 10 highlights:
1. Listen Up, Congress! – Safe Routes to Everywhere
In February, the Partnership for Active Transportation presented its new Safe Routes to Everywhere policy platform on Capitol Hill. Active-transportation investment delivers an incredible bang for the buck to communities, and the Partnership took to the Hill to share that common-sense wisdom with decision makers. Check out the partnership website to learn more about this unique coalition and download the platform.
2. Gotta Count ‘Em All – Launch of T-MAP
Seems like it would be much easier to justify building trails if you could prove how many people use them daily…and if you could measure that impact in terms of dollars, right? Well, T-MAP (Trail Modeling and Assessment Platform) is aiming to do just that, and more. Launched in June 2014 by RTC and a bunch of partners, this three-year initiative will arm trail planners with the tools they need to make the case for more—and better connected—biking and walking networks. How cool is that?
3. Trains + Bikes = Oh Yeah! – Bike Racks on Amtrak?
Talk about a busy summer, Amtrak announced in June that it’s installing new baggage cars with bike racks in all its long-distance trains. Soon, folks will be able to hop on the train to start their next trail adventure without having to baggage check their bikes! Amtrak initially indicated that the new baggage cars would be ready by the end of this year, but they’ve been a bit quiet on the topic since then. We eagerly await an update.
4. An Up-and-Coming Star – Preserving Missouri’s Rock Island Line
In July, RTC was presented with the chance to save a 145-mile segment of inactive rail corridor along the old Rock Island Line in Missouri. We quickly mobilized—with our efforts culminating in a railbanking campaign in which more than 11,000 supporters made their voices heard! The massive groundswell of public support was a success, and the owners have begun the railbanking process. A major victory!
It was a huge year for trails in the Sunshine State. Governor Rick Scott approved a budget that made savvy investments in the state’s trails, including the first phase of funding to begin work on the Coast-to-Coast Connector—a project to link existing trails in a 275-mile network from St. Petersburg to Titusville. It was big year for RTC’s supporters in the state, too, who fought back an attack by a Florida senator in May to slash trail funding. And in early December, more than 1,500 Floridians signed a petition calling for a rail-with-trail to be included in the All Aboard Florida high-speed rail project, dang it! The folks in Florida love trails, and in 2014, they made it clear that they won’t be ignored!
6. A New Jersey Tune Up – RTC’s Pop-Up Bike Clinics
Over the past two years, RTC’s pop-up bike clinic team has seen a flurry of action, fixing more than 600 bicycles for children and families in Camden, N.J. Our own Akram Abed, project manager, tells us that this summer was the most successful yet—filled to the brim with bike repairs, community rides and lots of watermelon. The team isn’t just tuning up bikes, they are making communities more mobile. Thanks for getting folks rolling again, and keep up the good work!
7. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is – California Trails Get Active
In September, California trails got a huge boost when the state approved $43 million for 20 trail projects through its new Active Transportation Program (ATP). Then, in November, the Golden State took another huge step forward by approving another $54 million for 24 regional ATP trail projects. Yep—that’s upwards of $100 million approved for trails in 2014.We look forward to seeing how these developments make an impact on biking and walking in the California!
8. Welcome to the Club! – Rail-Trail Hall of Fame
As the trees of southern Virginia shone in their fall foliage, the trail community celebrated the 27th inductee into the Rail-Trail Hall of Fame: the Virginia Creeper Trail! This trail totally rocks; aside from being incredibly scenic and a great ride (check out Rails to Trails' Winter 2015 cover story), the Creeper is an economic powerhouse for its local communities. People can’t say enough good things about the trail—and we agree. Its impact is truly legendary.
9. What a Champ! – Honoring Our Rail-Trail Champions
In October, longtime RTC in-house trail champion, Marianne Wesley Fowler, was honored with a 2014 Doppelt Family Rail-Trail Champion award! Over the past two-and-a-half decades, Marianne’s work has permeated—and elevated—every part of the rail-trail movement, from protecting critical federal funds to getting now-legendary projects off the ground. Hear Marianne share some amazing stories in Rails to Trails' 2014 Green Issue.
10. Powering Ahead – The Circuit and the Power of 32+
Some of you are probably familiar with the Circuit, a proposed 750-mile urban trail network in the Greater Philadelphia region that, when complete, will be a transportation game-changer, connecting people to work, school, jobs, parks, etc. This year, RTC recently stepped up the game and took a major leadership role to engage the Circuit’s many surrounding communities and make sure everyone has access to the trail system, which is currently 300+ miles strong, and growing.
As it happens, RTC also took a leadership role this year in a 1,400-mile off-road trail network being developed in America’s rustbelt, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Environmental Council (PEC) and a number of other major supporters. This work is part of the Power of 32+ initiative, which has an ambitious goal of increasing the financial, political and intellectual power of 52 counties in Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York. FYI: When complete, the off-road system will be the largest destination trail network in the country—pretty awesome.
Whew! What a year. Here’s hoping that 2015 is just as exciting!