With New Equity Criteria, TAB Selects Transportation Projects for Federal Funding

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By Dave Van Hattum, Advocacy Director

Editor’s Note: TLC’s Dave Van Hattum has served as one of two transit representatives on the Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) since December 2011. In 2014, Dave and others successfully advanced changes to the TAB’s project scoring criteria that place greater emphasis on social equity.

[/cmsms_text][/cmsms_column][/cmsms_row][cmsms_row data_padding_bottom=”20″ data_padding_top=”0″ data_color=”default” data_width=”boxed”][cmsms_column data_width=”1/1″][cmsms_image align=”left” link=”http://www.tlcminnesota.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Route-5-creditTLC-PamMoore1-820px-WEB.jpg” animation_delay=”0″]7689|http://www.tlcminnesota.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Route-5-creditTLC-PamMoore1-820px-WEB.jpg|full[/cmsms_image][/cmsms_column][/cmsms_row][cmsms_row data_padding_bottom=”20″ data_padding_top=”0″ data_color=”default” data_width=”boxed”][cmsms_column data_width=”1/1″][cmsms_text animation_delay=”0″]

Recently, the Metropolitan Council’s Transportation Advisory Board (TAB) selected, and authorized $150 million in federal funding for 51 new metro-area transportation projects. This 2015 Regional Solicitation process was the first following a thorough evaluation and recalibration of TAB’s scoring system to better align project selection with regional policy goals. As a result, and for the first time, all project scoring awarded points for social equity impacts, including the provision of affordable housing.

So: Did TAB’s first selection under the new scoring system result in more funding for transportation projects that advance social equity? Yes and no.

In 2015, as has been the case traditionally, TAB’s 33 members from around the region selected a regionally balanced slate of projects. This means each metro-area county sees funding approximately proportionate to their share of the regional population. For the most part, the TAB selection also divided available funding between modes (roadways, transit, bicycle/pedestrian) based on historical averages.

[/cmsms_text][/cmsms_column][/cmsms_row][cmsms_row data_padding_bottom=”20″ data_padding_top=”0″ data_color=”default” data_width=”boxed”][cmsms_column data_width=”1/1″][cmsms_table animation_delay=”0″][cmsms_tr type=”header”][cmsms_td type=”header”]County [/cmsms_td][cmsms_td type=”header”]Percent of Regional Population [/cmsms_td][cmsms_td type=”header”]Percent of Funding in the Regional Solicitation [/cmsms_td][cmsms_td type=”header”]Transit Projects[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td type=”header”]Bike/Ped Projects[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td type=”header”]Road/Bridge Projects[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td type=”header”]Total Projects[/cmsms_td][/cmsms_tr][cmsms_tr][cmsms_td]Anoka[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]11.6%[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]5.0%[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]-[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]1[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]2[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]3[/cmsms_td][/cmsms_tr][cmsms_tr][cmsms_td]Carver[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]3.2%[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]5.3%[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]-[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]2[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]2[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]4[/cmsms_td][/cmsms_tr][cmsms_tr][cmsms_td]Dakota[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]14.0%[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]13.4%[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]1[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]-[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]8[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]9[/cmsms_td][/cmsms_tr][cmsms_tr][cmsms_td]Hennepin[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]40.4%[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]47.8%[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]4[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]9[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]6[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]19[/cmsms_td][/cmsms_tr][cmsms_tr][cmsms_td]Ramsey[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]17.8%[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]13.5%[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]-[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]2[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]5.5[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]7.5[/cmsms_td][/cmsms_tr][cmsms_tr][cmsms_td]Scott[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]4.6%[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]7.9%[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]-[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]-[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]3[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]3[/cmsms_td][/cmsms_tr][cmsms_tr][cmsms_td]Washington[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]8.4%[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]7.1%[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]-[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]3[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]2.5[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]5.5[/cmsms_td][/cmsms_tr][cmsms_tr type=”footer”][cmsms_td]TOTAL[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]100%[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]100%[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]5[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]17[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]29[/cmsms_td][cmsms_td]51[/cmsms_td][/cmsms_tr][/cmsms_table][/cmsms_column][/cmsms_row][cmsms_row data_padding_bottom=”20″ data_padding_top=”0″ data_color=”default” data_width=”boxed”][cmsms_column data_width=”1/1″][cmsms_text animation_delay=”0″]

Nonetheless, in this year’s set of projects, movement toward the regional goal of reducing racial and economic disparities is evident in three significant ways:

  1. Funding increased 19% for bicycle/pedestrian projects beyond the historical average ($25.5 million in 2015 vs. $21.5 million). This resulted in two more bicycle projects funded: the Hadley Avenue tunnel on Gateway State Trail in Washington County and TH 5 regional trail in Carver County.
  2. A significantly greater share of total funding went to road maintenance projects vs. road expansion (from 34% in the 2014 solicitation to 48% in the 2015 solicitation).
  3. Transit projects funded were more concentrated in the urban core. These projects included improved bus service on Chicago Avenue, Emerson-Fremont Avenues, and Penn Avenue in Minneapolis—all corridors with areas of concentrated poverty.

Each of these project priorities helps to advance social equity in the region as people of color and people with low incomes are more likely to live in the urban core and more frequently rely on transit, bicycling, and walking to get around.

Despite these positive shifts, TLC would have liked to see even greater progress toward prioritizing funding for transit, bicycling, and walking projects. For example, rather than funding a new westbound on-ramp to I-494 at Bush Lake Road (with current all-direction on-ramps to I-494 a short distance away at Hwy. 100), we’d prioritize the proposed Cottage Grove-to-Saint Paul off-peak bus service. Or what about the proposed road maintenance on weight-restricted Hwy. 169 in Champlin? These projects still address suburban needs, and do so without emphasis on increasing road capacity through expansion.

Along these lines, it appears the first-ever inclusion of social equity points, coupled with other scoring changes, did have an impact on the transportation projects submitted (i.e. more bus projects in areas of concentrated poverty and more roadway maintenance projects)—and that has exciting implications for what TAB members are able to even consider funding. Also, with affordable housing accounting for 7% of total points available, all submitting communities should be motivated to improve their provision of affordable housing going forward.

At the same time, it appears that in 2015 the social equity criteria weren’t powerful enough to determine whether any single project was selected, or passed up, for funding. If our region wants to be more successful in expanding access to opportunity, that needs to change.

TLC is encouraged that Met. Council and TAB staff have committed to further evaluate both the project scoring system and the efforts to get local projects submitted for consideration. Our organization will continue working to ensure that the uniquely flexible federal transportation funding allocated by the TAB aligns with regional policy and does lead to a more equitable region.

For more on the 2015 Regional Solicitation:

• View the full list of funded projects
• View a map of the funded projects