Under ISTEA, transportation is more than moving cars and trucks

ISTEA said that state and local transportation plans must consider the needs of those without cars, which in many communities means about 30 percent of the population. This may seem like a lot of people but have you ever asked yourself: Who doesn't drive?

Here's a short list: kids under 16; seniors who can no longer get a license; people with developmental disabilities, brain damage, or mental illnesses; those with impaired eyesight or other physical disabilities that keep them from operating cars; those who can't afford a car*, those who walk or ride bicycles for environmental reasons, and others. In addition to those who DON'T drive, there are many who choose to walk, bicycle, or take transit occasionally.

Unfortunately in much of America, transportation historically meant serving cars, period. As a result of decades of neglect:

And the dangers they face are serious: nationwide, walkers and bicyclists account for about 15 percent of everyone killed in traffic --- about 7,000 Americans per year. Consider the following:

Under ISTEA, the balance is starting to shift. ISTEA's rules have forced state and local officials to take pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit users into account. and communities all over the nation are showing the results. In 1990, the year before ISTEA went into effect, federal spending on walkways and bikeways hovered at about $8 million nationwide. In 1995, that figure had jumped to $220 million. While this is still a tiny fraction of the total transportation budget, it's a big improvement.

*Owning and driving a car or truck is a heavy burden for those at the bottom of the economic ladder. Forty percent of all workers making less than $10,000 per year don't commute by car. And our current transportation system serves them very badly. For them, "transportation alternatives" are more than alternatives: they're the only way to get around.

What will happen to these "other" modes in the new law?

It depends who wins the battle in Congress. Some want to enhance transportation choice. Others do not.


ISTEA2 will maintain the Transportation Enhancements and Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality programs, which have funded many pedestrian and bicycle facilities over the past six years. It will keep the pedestrian and bicycle planning requirements. And it will also include a new category of eligible projects that connect low-income people with jobs.

Is there any wonder why groups like America Walks, the American Public Transit Association, the Bicycle Federation of America, and the Rails to Trails Conservancy support the ISTEA2 proposal?

Opposition comes from some state DOTs

Having to share power with local officials really irks some state DOTs. Often, the views of local officials reflect the priorities of local residents but conflict with the desires of the state.

Town leaders may, for example, want to improve the community's main street --- adding sidewalks and other features that would make it a place all could enjoy. But such plans may conflict with the DOT's desire to widen the highway through town.

 Other Proposals Most other proposals would eliminate the two funding sources responsible for most of the progress: the enhancements program and the air quality program. This often falls under the guise of "streamlining governmental regulations."

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