The chance to escape Wisconsin winter was a enough of a reason to head to our nation’s capital, but it was also a chance to lobby for better bicycling at the League of American Bicyclists’ 20th Annual National Bike Summit. This year the Bike Summit featured a mix of sessions, mobile workshops and tours that highlighted successful programs around the country, provided updates on federal transportation policy, and the usual sessions about the specific “asks” we would make of our senators and representatives on our lobby day.
If you want to do your part and contact your members of Congress or Senate, click here to visit the LAB website to read on the lobbying agenda and let your representative know you support these issues. FIND YOUR REP WITH THIS LINK
My Tuesday lobby day began with a visit to the offices of Senators Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson. I spoke with their Legislative Aids, which is can be just as valuable as meeting with the elected officials. I also met with Rep. Gwen Moore’s office and Rep. Ron Kind’s office. I was not able to get meetings scheduled with everyone, but did speak briefly with staff and drop off info packets with Rep. Duffy, Rep. Grothman, Rep. Sensenbrenner, Rep. Bryan Steil, Rep. Gallagher, and Rep. Pocan.
I’m glad I returned to warmer weather, but it is always good to participate in our democratic process and remind our elected officials how bicycling can be such a simple, inexpensive solution to so many of our complicated problems we face today. See below for more details about the legislative agenda from this year’s National Bike Summit
What it is » HR 1507, the Bicycle Commuter Benefit Act of 2019 extends commuter benefits to employees who choose to bike to work, similar to parking or transit benefits. The bill improves on the former bike commuter benefit originally passed in 2009, and suspended in the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2018. The changes in the Bicycle Commuter Benefit Act of 2019 will make the benefit easier to use and more attractive for both employers and employees. An increased use of the benefit will both reduce transportation costs for employees and employers, and for the federal treasury.
HR 1507, the Bicycle Commuter Benefit Act of 2019 will:
- Reinstate the bike commuter benefit and extend that benefit to commuters using bikeshare and electric bikes.
- Allow employees to use up to 20 percent of the parking benefit for bicycling expenses, so that employees can use the benefit in combination with the parking and transit benefit. This gives commuters more freedom to combine transportation modes.
- Simplify the administration of the bike commuter benefit, allowing employees to use the benefit pre-tax, and saves employers from having to collect and record receipts.
HOUSE and SENATE asks: ( Co- Sponsored by Tammy Baldwin)
The COMMUTE Act H.R. 1517
The COMMUTE Act, S. 654
H.R. 1517: The COMMUTE Act creates a pilot project to supply states and local governments with access data to help better plan transportation networks and connect residents with every day destinations, such as jobs schools, health care and grocery stores. The U.S. Department of Transportation already supplies states with congestion data, which measure how existing roads function. Until recently it has been difficult to analyze the cost/benefit of new projects based on improved access. Today, the private sector offers these tools, and a few states are using them already. However the data is expensive and not available to everyone. The Transportation Access and System Connection Act creates a pilot project to make that data available to five States, 10 metropolitan areas , and five rural areas to test how that data can be used to optimize transportation systems across modes and communities.
What it does:
- Creates a pilot program to supply access data to five states, ten metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), and five rural areas. The data will be provided using all transportation modes: biking, walking, transit and driving.
- The U.S. DOT will provide a data set for each area that measures accessibility. Each state will share that data with its local governments and researchers.The funding for the pilot program comes from US DOT administrative funds.
- The States and MPOs will use the data and report back to the U.S. DOT how the data is used, and highlight how such data impacted transportation investments. U.S. DOT will report results back to Congress.
IMPROVE TRANSPORTATION ALTERNATIVES funding program.
The next ask did refer to a specific bill but was a more general ask as legislators begin to prepare the new transportation funding budget.
Read the details here but essentially the goal is to allow for small communities and rural communities to be able to more easily access Transportation Alternatives Program funds in the following manner:
- Allow states to sub-allocate 100% of their TA funds if the Federal Highways Administration approves of the plan, and that plan includes a mechanism to tracking projects funded by it.
- Increase TA funding to 10% of the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program.
- Give States access to 5% of TA funds for technical and engineering assistance to local governments to help them produce strong applications, and to fund program staff to manage the implementation process.
- Give large MPOs obligation authority to improve project deliver, and makes small MPOs eligible to apply.