The BikeSpecific View of the FY 2018 Proposed Budget

Safe bicycling requires more money
than what's shown in this photo
Image: BikeSpecific
Many people would consider the Mayor of the District of Columbia's Proposed Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget, which was unveiled April 4, 2017, to be the epitome of boring.

It is.

However, BikeSpecifc is boring. In light of that revelation, I've scoured the budget and will now share some initial observations and potential changes to how bicycling is prioritized.

This Is Complicated

While just about all of the bike-related infrastructure expenditures are in the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), there are other agencies that spend funds to promote or help educate residents and visitors about bicycling. An example includes the DC Public Schools funding a bike education program for all second grade students in last year's budget. The FY 2018 Proposed budget doesn't tout what other agencies are doing to expand bicycling; however, I may have missed something, so feel free to check behind me.

Second, the Mayor's budget also doesn't provide many specifics. While the Proposed Budget highlight new initiatives, it doesn't always provide granular information - details of when and what infrastructure will be built. The budget document is a guide of what the Mayor plans to do; the implementation details are typically left to the agencies who tell you in meetings or websites.

Lastly, this isn't the final budget. The Council of the District of Columbia will also make changes and may add or subtract from bicycle or trail infrastructure. The may also institute new laws or funding sources that support specific current or new projects.

Because that's all complicated and filled with how the sausage is made details, let's focus on DDOT's budget. If you'd like, view the budget details.

Operating Budget

The FY 2018 DDOT budget is divided into two major pieces:  Capital and Operating.

The capital budget supports the multi-year, multi-million (billion) dollar medium to long-term assets like pedestrian bridges, streetcars, and snow plows. Much of the infrastructure is supported with capital dollars. I'll talk more about capital later.

The operating budget supports the cost of day-to-day operations, people, and supplies. The operating budget contains the planning of initiatives, the analysis of data, and the assessment initiative outcomes. How well or how poorly did the Pennsylvania Avenue protected bike lanes do to deter vehicles from making u-turns or how many people use the Metropolitan Branch Trail are examples. Operating also supports certain contracts for services, grants to organizations, and payments to other jurisdictions for what they do for the District. 
Saying all of that, let's talk about DDOT's Operating budget highlights.

Reorganization of DDOT
To comply with some of the suggestions and provisions of the "FY 2016 Transportation Reorganization Amendment Act", the District Department of Transportation engaged in a restructuring of the agency into five administration.

For bicycling, this appears to be a good change. The previous structure generally placed design segments of bicycling in the Progressive Transportation and Planning Policy and Sustainability programs. The new proposed 2018 structure appears to consolidate most bicycle functions with the Project Delivery Administration (PDA).

The PDA, which has a proposed budget of over $20 million with 36.0 positions, focuses on multi-modal infrastructure project planning, design, and construction; policy development and implementation; transit delivery; and traffic engineering and safety. Of that amount, about $3.6 million supports salaries and about $16 million supports contracts and grants. the remaining amount covers operating costs.

What's been one of the biggest gripes about DDOT is that the construction, planning, and design of infrastructure was siloed - bridges without bike and pedestrian access, poor or non-existent implementation of certain laws (like safe accommodation), or at time disconnect between when projects are planned and when they actually happen (Well, you know). The Planning and Sustainability Division supports much of the District's planning regarding the integration of multimodal transportation. This will hopefully reduce some of the agency overlap, siloing, right-hand/left-hand ambiguity; and allow programs to work together to plan and implement the building of infrastructure.

Specifically, the DDOT budget chapter states that the PDA:
  • Establishes strategic goals for multi-modal transportation program development, including pedestrian and bicyclist infrastructure, through design and plan review; 
  • Incorporates environmental management and sustainability; 
  • Administers safety programs; coordinates the development of the regional Transportation Improvement Program and District-wide Transportation Improvement Program; and 
  • Manages the Capital Bikeshare and Safe Routes to School programs.
The placement of the TIP or Transportation Improvement Program within the same administration The budget does not list all of what DDOT plans to do for biking and walking, it simply describes certain changes that are of particular importance to the Mayor.

BikeShare Enhancement
The Mayor proposed an additional increase of $1.6 million to support Bikeshare operations with the aim of keeping the membership rate at the current level of $85 annually. This presumes that without the additional funds that certain BikeShare costs are exceeding contract cost with the District providing additional funds to help maintain the cost of membership.

Vision Zero
Not specific to bicycling but considered by the Mayor to be an important element to reduce injurious and fatal crashes, the Mayor added $4.5 million to the Vision Zero Initiative. The additional funds support 45 new Traffic Control Operators along with 26 new School Crossing Guards.

Agency Performance Plans
The DDOT budget contains a revised, better organized, Agency Performance Plan or agency defined objectives or projects and indicators of performance. The plan articulates these objectives through activities, and DDOT has a bunch, that are specific projects the agency hopes to complete this fiscal year. They include the integration of performance management databases, the continued development of the Vision Zero Initiative, Capital Bikeshare planning, and several long-term capital construction projects. This data can also be used to show trends.

The Key Performance Indicators show FY 2015 actual measurements through 2016 projected targets. For example, DDOT will enhance data collection of bicycling and pedestrian usage by installing counters from three in 2016 to a projected seven in 2018.

Key Performance Indicator for DDOT
Image: FY 2018 Proposed Budget
Measures also include those associated with the Vision Zero Initiative, which aims to eliminate fatalities and serious injuries for all road users. For example, the "number of crashes with bicyclists involved" shows 647 in 2015, a decrease of 201 in 2016, and a projected goal for 2017 and 2018 of zero crashes.

Capital Budget

The Capital budget includes many projects that have a direct impact on how bicyclists and pedestrians safely and directly get to where they want to go. The Capital Improvements Plan, or CIP, contains new projects and residual funding from prior year projects with available balances. The CIP projects spending over a 6-year period from FY 2018 through FY 2023. The CIP covers the construction of infrastructure but also the design work and certain planning elements.

Capital funds are derived from local taxes and fees and from federal sources, like highway funding, block grants and specific federal payments requested by Congress. Much of the District's capital budget is funded with municipal bonds that must be repaid, typically in 10 to 30 years.

While there are many projects that could allow for better bicycling, like curb cuts, let's focus on projects that specifically support bicycling and trails. The following projects are new or expand existing projects.

BikeShare Expansion
One of the largest new investments in bicycling support BikeShare expansion. The project, Capital Bikeshare Expansion (KA0-CBS02), provides $8.0 million over next few years to continue the expansion of system by purchasing additional bikes and stations. The proposed funding allocates $2.0 million in fiscal years 2018 and 2019 and another $2.0 million in 2021 and 2022.

11th Street Bridge Park
The budget also contains plans to expand or beautify the District's trail network. The budget contains an additional $8 million for the 11th Street Bridge Park project (ED0D5), which when combined with prior year allocations, has a total of $29.5 million. The additional funding, to be spent in FY 2020, supports the design costs of the park. Preliminary plans include bike and pedestrian trails, outdoor performance spaces, play areas, gardens, information about the river and its ecosystem, a dock to launch boats and kayaks to explore the river.

Transportation Improvement Program
On the operating side of the budget, DDOT was reorganized potentially allowing certain short and long-term planning elements to operated more smoothly. The Travel Demand Management project (ZU000) contains much of the Transportation Improvement Program or TIP funding for the District. This project received an additional $33.4 million over the 6-year period. Also, the budget has multiple subprojects that allocate funds to achieve specific goals like Capital Bikeshare Marketing and Outreach (ZU057C), Bike Parking Racks (ZUT06A), or Bike Cycle Tracks (ZUD12A)

Specifically, the funding allocated in this project supports services and facilities that promote safe and attractive walking and bicycling as well as programs that promote mass transit, and other creative ways to provide alternatives to auto travel as well as significant outreach, education, and promotion. A list of all TIP projects can be seen on the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board website.

A list of bike-specific projects that are not classified as "Completed" can be seen below:

So that was a lot of stuff and only the first part, remember - the Council will have a role. As more information becomes available, we'll talk.

If I've missed something or you have questions, let me know.