Non-motorized pilot program reports show small investment can mean big changes

By Mary Ebeling

The final report for the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP) has been submitted to Congress, and the numbers are impressive. Established as part of SAFETEA-LU, according to FHWA, “This program has provided over 25 million dollars each to four communities – Columbia, MOMarin County, CAMinneapolis Area, MNSheboygan County, WI – to demonstrate how improved walking and bicycling networks can increase rates of walking and bicycling.”

Indeed, the NTPP has well illustrated the benefits of developing an interconnected network of bicycle and pedestrian facilities. With this program, Congress sought, “to construct … a network of nonmotorized transportation infrastructure facilities, including sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and pedestrian and bicycle trails, that connect directly with transit stations, schools, residences, businesses, recreation areas, and other community activity centers.” When the facilities still under construction are completed across the four communities, the NTPP will provide 333 miles of on-road bicycle facilities and 23 miles of off-road bike and pedestrian facilities. It will also install 5,725 bicycle racks/parking spaces.

The NTPP proved that it is possible to get a significant portion of the population to forgo driving their cars, and instead walk or bike, if they are provided with the needed infrastructure to make biking and walking for transportation a practical and safe choice. While the nation as a whole saw an increase in bicycling from 2007 through 2010, the sharp spike in bicycling among the pilot communities during the same period provides convincing evidence that a relatively modest investment in bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure and programs results in a substantial benefit. Mode share increases for bicycling and walking in the pilot communities from 2007 to 2010 outpaced the national average. Across the pilot communities mode share increased 36 percent for bicycling and 14 percent for walking. It also decreased 3 percent for driving during this period.

Several important ancillary health and air quality benefits emerged from the mode shift achieved through the NTPP. Many people tried bicycling for the first time in their adults lives, or ever. The additional nonmotorized trips in the pilot communities in 2010 reduced the economic cost of mortality by an estimated $6.9 million. 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.

Mary Ebeling is a Transportation Policy Analyst with SSTI. She can be reached at mebeling@SSTI.us.