Cost to Build a Walkable and Bikeable SoCal in 25 years: $40 Billion

January 24, 2012 by 4 Comments

Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Estimates SCAG region needs $40 Billion to build and support a healthy, walkable and bikeable SCAG Region.

Walking in Baldwin Park, CA. Photo Credit: HEAC on flickr


In December of 2011, the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) released the draft 2012 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Community Strategy (RTP/SCS) which will determine funding and set transportation priorities in the Southern California Region for the next 25 years.  The RTP outlines the specific projects  and the amount of funding available for different travel modes.

In Southern California 21 percent of all trips are made by people walking and bicycling (2009 National Household Travel Survey) and  25 percent of all roadway fatalities are bicyclists and pedestrians (2012 SCAG RTP).   In addition, 24 percent of the residents in the SCAG region suffer from obesity with some populations reporting rates of up to 49.6 percent.  This data points to an enormous need for infrastructure improvements for active transportation.  The 2012 RTP/SCS allocates $6 billion dollars to bicycle and pedestrian projects over the course of the plan.  This amounts to a mere 1.1 percent of the total $524.7 billion allocated over 25 years.  Given the discrepancy between estimated funding in the RTP/SCS and the need for improvements to active transportation networks, it became apparent that a cost estimate was needed for building and maintaining these networks.


To better determine the regions needs, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) developed a methodology for calculating the costs of building active transportation networks based on existing data.  LACDPH analyzed bicycle plans and pedestrian plans from multiple jurisdictions to  determine the projected bicycle, pedestrian and related transit oriented district (TOD) costs on a per capita basis.  Their work shows that the total costs for the entire region to be an estimated $40 billion.

LACDPH collected the costs for three types facilities: bicycle infrastructure, pedestrian infrastructure, and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure included in Transit Oriented Districts.   These costs were then broken down on a per capita basis for each category.  By doing this LACDPH then was able calculate the need for the entire SCAG region (6 Counties, 18 Million people) by multiplying the cost per capita by the population.

Traveling in Southern California – how do our Regional Transportation Plans address all modes and safety issues? . Photo Credit: HEAC on flickr

BICYCLE:  To calculate the total funding needed to provide bicycle infrastructure for the entire SCAG region, LACDPH examined Bicycle Master Plans (BMPs) from 16 different cities in LA County and Gap Projects found in Metro’s Bicycle Transportation Strategic Plan.   Both capital project costs and maintenance costs were developed on a per captia annual basis.  Based on these calculations it would cost approximately $9 a year per person or $4.1 billion over 25 years to build and maintain the bicycle network in Southern California.

PEDESTRIAN:  The estimated cost to build and maintain the pedestrian network was calculated by examining pedestrian master plans, maintenance needs in the City of Los Angeles and pedestrian improvement needs around schools based on Caltrans Cycle 9 Safe Routes to School projects.  LACDPH found that the current need is approximately $77 a year per person or $34.8 billion dollars over the course of 25 years.

TRANSIT ORIENTED DISTRICTS:  This section included the bicycle and pedestrian needs directly adjacent to rail and bus stations.   For this estimate LACDPH calculated the costs based on per station estimates by the Center for Transit Oriented Development.  Total costs for 194 stations equaled approximately $1.4 billion.


SCAG has stated that the 2012 plan triples the amount of funding dedicated for active transportation from $1.8 billion in 2008 to the $6 billion in the 2012 plan.  However, given the historical lack of funding for these modes, this increase still does not come close to meeting the region’s needs, nor does it allocate an amount proportional to the number of accidents involving and trips taken by these modes.   As noted the LACDPH estimates this need to be approximately $40 billion dollars over the 25 year period.  The Safe Routes to School Southern California Network, which has been attending and commenting at SCAG Regional Transportation Plans since Spring of 2010, continues to urge SCAG policycmakers to increase the amount of funding available for active transportation in its RTP/SCS to better reflect this need.

Interested and want to show your support for these efforts?  Please consider signing onto our February 2012 SCAG RTP comment letter by emailing emailing by 5pm February 10, 2012.

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