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Update November 7:
El Paso Bike Share is going forward with a smaller program from what was originally proposed. From Broken Spokes:
“Leading up to the vote, Velo Paso, a local bicycle-pedestrian coalition, was disappointed in having a scaled-down program, but ultimately supported a smaller, permanent program over a pilot program with an uncertain future. Sarah Rich, Velo Paso secretary, spoke at the meeting in favor of a permanent program.
The project will be funded with $276,000 from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, $100,000 from the city, $24,000 from UTEP, and an additional $300,000 in surface transportation program funds that were made available by the MPO and FHWA.”
See the rest of the Broken Spokes article here.
Update October 4:
TxDOT still says no to using CMAQ, but the MPO, TxDOT, and the FHWA are supposed to meet in Austin to discuss.
Today, however, the El Paso City Council deleted their agenda item to defund bike share in favor of the bridge wait time project, and then moved to encourage the MPO to move ahead with the money they have access to right now. Either way, it’s another vote in support of bike share. However, even with all that support the scope looks like it will shrink.
Update September 12:
The League of American Bicyclists used their contacts in Washington to get Congressman Beto O’Rourke to submit a letter in favor of bike share.
Update October 4:
The agenda for the meeting on October 4 is posted, and it includes an item from the City of El Paso asking for clarification of bike share funding, including this paragraph:
It is important that the City of El Paso gets its share of grant money to start our Bike Share. The benefits will be endless and beneficial to Texas. Governor Perry wants business in Texas, and companies will come to Texas if they see TxDOT in partnership with the citizens of El Paso. Healthy Texans make for healthy, productive employees. Thank you for your prompt response for a better Texas!
Update September 30:
TxDOT requested an agenda item for the City Council’s October 1 meeting attempting to get the City to back down from supporting bike share. After much contact from VeloPaso and BikeTexas members, the City Council decided to postpone the agenda item for two weeks to grant time to study the matter.
Update September 13:
State Senator José Rodriguez showed up to the Transportation Policy Board meeting and led the way in speaking against TxDOT’s agenda item to deprogram bike share. Other members of the policy board joined in, included State Reps. Naomi Gonzalez and Joe Moody. When Rep. Rodriguez suggested that the agenda item simply be removed to have the action to deprogram bike share killed quietly, Rep. Moody responded that he wanted to know where everyone stood, and called for a vote. Every single member of the 14-member board voted against the measure to deprogram bike share, except TxDOT’s representative. Even Rep. Pickett, who had initially campaigned strongly against bike share, voted for continuing to pursue bike share.
TxDOT released an angry press release shortly thereafter saying that they won’t release the funds. Unlike other federally funded programs where TxDOT controls the money, such as Transportation Enhancements / Transportation Alternatives, TxDOT can legally withhold CMAQ funds as long as it sees fit.
Update September 11:
Update September 9:
TxDOT formally submits an agenda item to the Transportation Policy Board to vote on deprogramming El Paso Bike Share. The board will meet on September 13. Essentially TxDOT is asking for the El Paso MPO to reverse its decision to use CMAQ funds for bike share in El Paso. TxDOT had tried to just withhold funds but now is trying to make the death of bike share official. They are also conducting a misinformation campaign about bike share, saying that it won’t relieve congestion or improve air quality, saying that other bike share programs don’t use public funds, and releasing other misleading documents about bike share. They are also proposing that the CMAQ funds be used to reduce bridge wait times, but its unclear whether FHWA will approve such uses of CMAQ funds.
Response from Representative Joe Pickett on August 26:
Thank you for taking the time to let me know of your support for the Bike Share Program. Unfortunately, at this point in time, and given all factors of the Transportation System and its needs here in El Paso, there are more prudent uses suited to reducing congestion. Perhaps this will be a practical solution in the future, but, given all factors fair consideration, it is not a practical solution at this time. Any funding already associated to this project will stay here in El Paso, we do not lose it. But again, there are higher priority projects to meet the region’s transportation needs.
Joe C. Pickett
Update August 16:
Update August 15:
The Velo Paso Bicycle-Pedestrian Coalition attended the Camino Real Regional Mobility Authority’s (CRRMA) monthly meeting to support the city-wide Bike Share program after BikeTexas and the League of American Bicyclists sent out an urgent action alert. The CRRMA announced that TxDOT would not fund the bike share program with money from the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funding that the bike share program fully qualifies for under requirements stipulated by the Federal Highway Administration. When asked why, it was reported that TxDOT did not believe this was an appropriate use for these funds.
Robin Stallings, Executive Director of Bike Texas, disagrees. “San Antonio, Houston, and Fort Worth have all proven that bike share can be successful in Texas at reducing air pollution, improving traffic congestion, contributing to healthier populations, boosting local economies, and attracting tourism. Many different organizations in El Paso have come together and agreed that moving forward with bike share is the best use of CMAQ funds. BikeTexas hopes that TxDOT follows through with serving the needs of the community in this way.”
Without the $1.6 million from TxDOT, funding plummets to just $400,000. All interested stakeholders plan on moving forward with the Bike Share project. The CRRMA also revealed that Fort Bliss, the Army’s second largest military installation, has expressed interest in joining the Bike Share program.
“We applaud the efforts of the CRRMA and the El Paso MPO for forging unique partnerships with the city, UTEP [University of Texas at El Paso] and Fort Bliss,” said Bennett Foster, board member of Velo Paso. “They brokered a dream deal that could unite the city and fundamentally change how we think about transportation.”