Because supporters of biking and walking took action, the US Department of Transportation has acknowledged that biking and walking have a role to play in reducing congestion and improving air quality!
In mid-January, the US Department of Transportation released their final version of performance measures — including air quality, congestion and performance of major roads. US DOT’s initial proposed measures focused exclusively on cars by measuring only the speed or travel times or cars and trucks. Had the rule stood, it would have incentivized states to build new road capacity and increase speed; it would have also impeded states’ and communities’ complete streets and vision zero policies.
Earlier this summer the League of American Bicyclists called on friends and allies to contact the US DOT asking them to measure people, not just cars: including people walking, biking, carpooling or taking transit. Thanks to the response, US DOT made significant changes to the rule. They reported that over 95 percent of the comments they received — including the roughly 6,000 sent by League advocates and member organizations — called for multi-modal transportation measures and/or greenhouse gas emissions measures.
Here is a short summary of the changes to the rules:
A MULTI-MODAL MEASURE
- The rule creates a multi-modal performance measure that will measure the percent of travel made by non-single occupancy — as a measure to reduce congestion. States will have to establish targets to increase biking, walking and transit.
STATE DOTS WILL HAVE TO TRACK THEIR IMPACT ON CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS
- Under the new rule, state transportation agencies will be required to plan for and monitor the impact of their project on green house gas emissions. This will apply to National Highway System roads, including both interstate and other major roads such as arterials and state highways.
- This should encourage states and MPOs to invest in biking and walking projects to help reduce congestion and improve air quality.
MEASURING PASSENGERS NOT JUST VEHICLES
- Finally the performance measures will still measure travel time and vehicle speeds but will also account for the number of people in those vehicles (person-miles instead of vehicle miles). This will incentivize transit, carpooling and ride–share options over single occupancy vehicles.