Funding for the city's bicycle master plan is currently projected to fall about $165 million short of the $240 million ten-year plan approved by the City Council in 2007, the council's transportation committee was told earlier this week. That's a shortfall of nearly 70 percent. The plan is supposed to be a road map to improve bicycle access throughout Seattle, ultimately tripling the amount of bicycling in the city and reduce the number of crashes by one-third.
Since the plan was implemented, the city has spent, on average, about $7 million a year, an annual shortfall of about $17 million from the adopted plan. That number will be even lower starting in 2012, when funding from the 2006 Bridging the Gap levy will fall to zero, bringing the total annual funding for the plan to around $5 million.
"Progress to date, while significant, is not on track to have the plan be fully implemented by 2017," council central staffer Dan Eder said.
So far, the city's efforts have focused largely on new lane markings called sharrows, in which bikes share a lane with car traffic. Grace Crunican, the outgoing director of the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), told PubliCola last month that the city would soon start focusing on bike lanes, not sharrows. "For every mile we install of sharrows, we'll have to install two miles of bike lanes to meet our goal,"said Sam Woods, head of SDOT's bike and pedestrian program, said at this week's meeting.
That presents a political and a financial problem: Bike lanes are more controversial (because they frequently require the removal of parking); therefore, they require more money and more time to implement. The problem, in other words, is going to get harder to solve in the future.
David Hiller, advocacy director with the Cascade Bicycle Club, says the city could identify alternative sources of funding, such as federal dollars, to close the gap. "The truth is, the identified funding is not sufficient to build the plan, but that happens with lots of projects," he says. However, he adds, "We need more money. We need a lot more than we've got, and I don't think we can count on the state to provide more funding" for projects like the bike master plan.
Mark Matassa, spokesman for Mayor Mike McGinn, a cyclist and vocal cycling advocate, has not yet returned a call seeking information about whether he plans to propose additional funding for the bike program. (The pedestrian master plan, which the transportation committee did not discuss, is also significantly underfunded). Transportation department spokespeople were on furlough and unavailable for comment today.
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