We finally have the report on SAFETEA-LU’s Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program! The FHWA released the report today, and it is now available to all for their delight and edification (PDF).
This final report has been being promised since 2009 or so, with delivery dates being pushed later several times. This report has been of great interest in the transportation debate, since transportation enhancements are viewed as expendable. The report suggests otherwise, looking at 4 very different communities (Minneapolis, Marin County CA, Columbia, Missouri and Sheboygan, WI).
Key outcomes of the NTPP include:
- Average increases of 49% in the number of bicyclists and 22% in the number of pedestrian trips between 2007-2010.
- In 2010, an estimated 16 million miles were walked or bicycled that would have otherwise been driven — 32 million total driving miles were averted between 2007 and 2010.
- For the four pilot communities, bicycling mode share increased 36 percent, walking mode share increased 14 percent, and
driving mode share decreased 3 percent between 2007 and 2010. In Minneapolis, bicycling mode share increased by 33% and walking mode share increased by 17%.
- The pilot communities saved an estimated 22 pounds of CO2 in 2010 per person or a total of 7,701 tons. This is equivalent to saving over 1 gallon of gas per person or nearly 1.7 million gallons from 2007 to 2010.
Per the FHWA, 89% of program funds were spent on infrastructure in all 4 communities; in the Twin Cities, that number was 87%. Other funds were spent on education and bike parking. Of these capital projects, most are in some state of incompletion.
Twin Cities projects evaluated include:
- Network gap closures on Marshall Avenue in Saint Paul, Como Avenue in Saint Paul/Minneapolis, and Minnehaha and 20th Avenue South in Minneapolis.
- Road Diets on Franklin Avenue and Minnehaha Ave and 20th Ave South.
- NiceRide Bicycle Sharing and the Sibley Community Partners Bike Library.
In general, the report is mostly unbiased, but has flaws. As a pilot program, solid ways to measure every statistic is a work in progress, and not every metric has solid data. Data collection was not explicitly funded, and thus was done in part with reserved program funds in each community. The means of measurement varied in each community and project. The statistics can certainly be attacked, and almost certainly will be attacked — although the attack may be less based on the math, and more on ingrained notions against spending money on transportation enhancements.
Given the delays in delivering this report, it’s hard to believe that additional communities will get similar investment moving forward — at least in the current transportation and funding environment, which is definitely focused on pavement and silly bridges, rather than projects that encourage density and environmental progress. However, the data may serve as a lever to preserve transportation enhancements at least as a fractional percentage of budgetary spend. In the meantime, even in places like Minneapolis, everyone may need to expect smaller-scale projects that cost less for a while.
I've expressed concerns in the past that we perhaps are not applying an appropriate statistical rigor to our evaluation of the pilot program. I haven't taken the time to explore this newest report, however. As someone who is firmly in favor of increasing funding for biking and walking infrastructure, this report is probably good news. However, I also worry that a simplistic statistical analysis won't ultimately do they cycling community any favors, as it may give critics fodder to claim cycling advocates are misrepresenting facts.
Here is another data point folks should be aware of:
Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program Evaluation Study, Phase 2
This study wasn't able to detect any substantial mode shift, though it is also quick to point out the limitations of their methodology.
I agree, correlation is not causation. Be very careful about attributing a 49% increase in bike ridership to the projects funded by NTPP. Gas prices doubled and the great recession also played some role.