(a) In General- Paragraph (1) of section 132(f) is amended by adding at the end the following: ‘(D) Any qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement.’.
(b) Limitation on Exclusion- Paragraph (2) of section 132(f) is amended by striking ‘and’ at the end of subparagraph (A), by striking the period at the end of subparagraph (B) and inserting ‘, and’, and by adding at the end the following new subparagraph: ‘(C) the applicable annual limitation in the case of any qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement.’.
(c) Definitions- Paragraph (5) of section 132(f) is amended by adding at the end the following:
‘(F) DEFINITIONS RELATED TO BICYCLE COMMUTING REIMBURSEMENT-
‘(i) QUALIFIED BICYCLE COMMUTING REIMBURSEMENT- The term ‘qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement’ means, with respect to any calendar year, any employer reimbursement during the 15-month period beginning with the first day of such calendar year for reasonable expenses incurred by the employee during such calendar year for the purchase of a bicycle and bicycle improvements, repair, and storage, if such bicycle is regularly used for travel between the employee’s residence and place of employment.
‘(ii) APPLICABLE ANNUAL LIMITATION- The term ‘applicable annual limitation’ means, with respect to any employee for any calendar year, the product of $20 multiplied by the number of qualified bicycle commuting months during such year.
‘(iii) QUALIFIED BICYCLE COMMUTING MONTH- The term ‘qualified bicycle commuting month’ means, with respect to any employee, any month during which such employee--
‘(I) regularly uses the bicycle for a substantial portion of the travel between the employee’s residence and place of employment, and
‘(II) does not receive any benefit described in subparagraph (A), (B), or (C) of paragraph (1).’.
(d) Constructive Receipt of Benefit- Paragraph (4) of section 132(f) is amended by inserting ‘(other than a qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement)’ after ‘qualified transportation fringe’.
(e) Effective Date- The amendments made by this section shall apply to taxable years beginning after December 31, 2008.
What does bicycle commuting have to do with credit issues or covering the debt racked up on Wall Street? Bicycle commuting advocate Earl Blumenauer, a Democratic Representative from Oregon, was one of the 228 Representatives who voted against the House version of the bailout package on Monday. House members looking to pass a bailout bill needed to convince as least 12 of the dissenters to switch their position and vote for a bailout bill...
Congressman Blumenauer spearheaded a seven-year campaign to extend commuter tax benefits to those who bike to work. Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, said the Bicycle Commuter Act has been held up getting through with previous bills. “It’s been attached to a variety of different bills or devices—climate change, energy, transportation,” Clarke said. “It’s ironic that it would wind up in a financial rescue package, but we’ll take it. I’m not going to quibble with the method; I’m glad to see it done.” (Read more.)
A number of blogs have already commented on the inclusion of the Bicycle Commuter Act into the ridiculous $700 billion Federal pork barrel bailout of Wall Street, including great coverage by Cyclelicious, BikePortland.org, StreetsBlog, and a survey of bicycle commuting attitudes by Outside Online. The bicycle commuter provisions of the bailout have also aroused hostility in less supportive quarters, summarized by Philadelphia Bicycle News:
"Bicycles are in the headlines today, but not in a good way. (The) Bicycle Commuter Act is tied into the Tax Bailout Bill lumping bicycle commuters with Rum Makers and tax breaks for NASCAR. They are labeling the Bicycle Commuter Tax Break as Pork, does this mean that Transit Check and commuter parking benefits are also Pork?"
As I understand it, the Bicycle Commuter Act provides employers a tax break of up to $20 a month if they give some bicycle commuting benefits to their employees. It's a modest step forward. "It may not be a total game changer," the LAB's Clarke told Bicycle Retailer & Industry News. "It's still a relatively small break. But it gets us closer to the kind of treatment that cyclists in the U.K. and other parts of the world have had for years."
This measure may attract a few additional bicycle commuters. Personally, I would have preferred that $700 billion spent on beneficial economy stimulating public works projects, such as passenger rail, bicycle facilities, and transit. However, this bailout will likely have another more significant favorable effect. Essentially, the Fed policy seems to be dollar devaluation, reducing the debt crisis through inflation. This can only mean even higher prices for gas, increasing the relative appeal of bicycle commuting.
Via Bike Commute Tips
Last week the U.S. Senate, amended H.R. 6049, the Energy and Tax Extenders Act of 2008, by passing several amendments which provide for clean energy incentives and extend expiring tax cuts. One of the amendments, which wonSenate passage by an overwhelming vote of 93-2, was the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008, which contains the bicycle commuter tax benefit provision we have been seeking for years. As last week’s Senate vote replaced the text of H.R. 6049, energy tax legislation approved in the House of Representatives earlier this year, we are currently waiting to hear if the House of Representatives will agree to take up the Senate’s amended legislation.
here’s a cool new product from San Francisco that was unveiled at Interbike this week — the Bike to Work Pants by Cordarounds.
They’re just a regular pair of khakis, but with hidden, reflective powers.
From their website:
“Using fabrics like Illuminite Teflon and 3M Scotchlite we’ve bought reflectivity to regular trousers. They line the inner pantcuffs and rear pockets, allowing you to deploy added protection and reflection as you pedal off.”
I could see these being very popular in Portland. It’s neat to see non-bike-specific companies recognize and innovate for the growing market of urban bike commuters.
More at Cordarounds.com.
Bike 2 Work Pants from Cordarounds on Vimeo.
•$76 billion a year on health care costs related to physical inactivity, partly because many individuals cannot safely walk, bicycle, or access public transit;
• $164 billion a year on health care costs associated with traffic injuries and deaths; and
• Between $40 and $64 billion a year on health care costs associated with asthma and other health conditions related to high rates of air pollution.
If we work together, we can ask Congress to ensure that the next transportation bill recognizes these problems and sets a strong goal to reverse these negative outcomes of our current transportation system. This will provide a strong foundation for increased funding and supportive policies for safe routes to school, smart growth, safer communities for bicycling and walking, and complete streets. Please review the letter and follow the sign-on instructions at: www.saferoutespartnership.org/national/45755/45848. The deadline for organizational signatures is October 31, 2008.
$20 a Month if You Bike Commute! Senate Votes Thursday or Friday for this! Write Our Senators with this Easy To Fill Out Form!
The Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008, also includes the bicycle commuter tax benefit provision, previously introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR). The provision provides for qualified bicycle commuting reimbursement for such reasonable expenses incurred by an employee for the purchase of a bicycle, bicycle improvements, repair, and storage.
The Senate is expected to vote on this legislation either tomorrow Thursday, September 18, or Friday, the 19th. Please take a moment to contact your Senator to urge them to vote yes on the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.
On their web page, Who’s Trash Talking Bikes?, the League has a list of recent anti-bike statements by politicians and pundits. For each one they include sections titled: “What he/she said”; “What’s the issue”; “What are the facts”; “What he/she could have said”; and “What you can do.”
Here’s how they deal with some recent trash talk from U.S. Senator Jim DeMint from South Carolina (I’ve included the links as they appear on the League’s site):
What he said:
“We must stop wasteful earmarks for bike paths and museums that divert critical funding away from priority roads and bridges,” DeMint said in a September 8 statement addressing a shortfall in highway funding.
U.S. Senator Jim DeMint,
What’s the issue:
The Highway Trust Fund, funded from gas taxes and “spent” by state Department’s of Transportation, is running out of money and needs an $8 billion infusion of cash, according to the US Department of Transportation. Senator DeMint is apparently blaming the shortfall on wasteful bike path projects.
What are the facts:
It’s true that the law approving the spending of the highway trust fund has a lot of Congressional earmarks for “high priority projects” – a total of $15 billion in the 2005 SAFETEA-LU legislation. However, bike paths account for less than five percent of those earmarks, and most of them haven’t even been started yet.
A much more immediate reason for the funding crisis is the dramatic fall in motor vehicle miles traveled (and thus gallons of gasoline bought) in recent months due to rising gas prices. Ironically, of course, bicycle use is soaring because of those same high gas prices, meaning that we actually need more bike facilities, not less.
In August 2007, after the Minneapolis bridge collapse, Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters made similarly unfortunate comments for which she has subsequently apologized. Bicycling and walking are critical components of our transportation system.
What he could have said:
We must stop wasteful earmarks and get transportation funding into the hands of local decision-makers to start solving some of our traffic, energy, environmental and health challenges by getting more people bicycling, walking and taking transit. We also need to change the funding process so that we reward ourselves for reducing the number of motor vehicle miles traveled.
What You Can Do
If you are from South Carolina, drop a line to your Senator and let him know that bicycling and bike paths are pretty important to you. Let him know that while earmarks are generally undesirable, the only reason most of the bike-related projects are even requested in the first place is because state Departments of Transportation still stubbornly refuse to implement them willingly.
If you aren’t from South Carolina, you can still drop him a note, or you can write your own members of Congress and let them know how much you disagree with Senator DeMint’s attack on bike paths – that way we might just discourage them from making this mistake in the first place.
It makes sense that the easiest way to keep your footwear dry is to not let it get sopping wet in the first place. On wet roads, fenders work wonders at reducing the amount of water that gets splashed onto your feet from the road. If it’s raining, however, you’re going to get your feet wet. Fenders will potentially lessen it a bit.
Once your shoes are wet, though, the most obvious choice is to use the clothes dryer. Cycling shoes with cleats can damage the inside of a dryer, though, and shoes bouncing around in the dryer not only make a lot of noise, but it can harm the shoes as well as making them “Kick” the door of the dryer open, stopping the cycle before they’re dry. One way to take care of this is to use a rack inside your dryer (some new dryers come with a shoe-drying rack that fits inside) or simply untie the laces, tie a knot in the very end of the laces, and allow them to hang with the knot keeping them suspended against the dryer door. This is how I do it at home. Alternatively, twine or a re-purposed metal clothes hanger can be used to hang your shoes on the inside of the dryer door. This way, your shoes don’t make a lot of noise. Be careful with racing shoes that are made of stiff plastic or carbon fiber. Excess heat can damage them.
Newsprint, wadded up and stuffed into the shoes is another suggestion I’ve seen “kicked around” lately. If you get the newspaper and never seem to come up with a good creative use for the newsprint after you’ve read it, now’s your chance to re-purpose it. If your shoes are quite damp, you may need to remove the old newspaper and repeat the process a few times. I don’t subscribe to a newspaper, so I haven’t been able to try this theory myself.
The last suggestion I got from several friends of mine was to use a good pair of cycling sandals. These clipless cleat-ready sandals, when worn with wool socks often remain comfy year round, even in the cold season. There isn’t a lot of material to get soaked. Sandals dry quickly. Wool socks do as well, but also retain much of their insulating value even when wet.
One trick I use occasionally at the office is to place my wet socks and/or shoes on top of my computer monitor after I’m sure they won’t drip water into the sensitive electronics within. The heat from my computer monitor isn’t too extreme, but over the course of my entire work day, it’s often warm enough to dry out a few articles of soggy clothing.
Got more cool ways to keep your toes dry? Drop us a line in the comments!
Via Commute by Bike
The League of American Bicyclists has recently expanded its efforts in building a Bicycle Friendly America with its Bicycle Friendly State Program. The two part program recognizes states that promote cycling through legislation, policies, programs, and by creating new places to ride, educating motorists and cyclists, and encouraging people to bike for transportation and recreation.
The first part of the program has been to create an annual ranking of all 50 states. The ranking was based on 74 questions across 6 categories, and looks at all Virginia is doing for bicycling and bicyclists. Virginia has finished 23 overall. In each of the 6 categories your state ranked:
8-tied in Legislation
19-tied in Policies & Programs
25-tied in Infrastructure
29 in Education & Encouragement
14-tied in Evaluation & Planning
34-tied in Enforcement
For a full listing of all 50 states visit bikeleague.org
Year-round, one of the most fatal flaws of a cyclist is to ride in the various “no zones” and blind spots of automobile traffic. As ours are among the smallest vehicles on the road, it’s easy for a small blind spot to encumber us entirely. These blind spots include the 3-4 feet next to parked cars (the “Door Prize Zone”), next to the rear passenger-side fender, and almost anywhere along the driver’s side of the car unless you’re near the front fender. Additionally, the A-Pillar (the metal between the front windshield and the side front window) can block you from the view of the driver as well, particularly when you’re approaching cross-traffic.
Reflective material on your bicycle and clothing adds a key visual stimulus in low-light conditions. The more reflective material that’s facing the motorist, the further away you’ll be when you catch their eye. This applies mostly to the rear and sides of your bicycle and body, but having plenty of reflective material visible from the front is a great idea as well. You never know when someone will turn across your path. It goes without saying that a full set of DOT-Approved reflectors fore, aft, and on the wheels is highly recommended.
Active lighting is a must when it comes to riding before sunrise or after sundown. Lately, LED technology has gotten relatively inexpensive and the performance is getting to be quite good. While flashing light is an attention-getter, it can also be distracting and make it difficult to judge how far away you are. By the same token, commodity halogen bicycle headlights are easy for a motorist to glance over. It’s up to each individual cyclist to determine what they need, but in general, you’re either buying a headlight to see with, or buying a headlight to be seen. LED Vs. HID Vs. Halogen is practically a Holy War among cyclists who ride at night. All have benefits. Tail lights most commonly come in one form: The “Blinky”. This can be an array from one to more than a dozen LEDs with several flashing modes and a steady mode. They either mount with belt clips or under the seat. There are only a few exceptions to the rear tail light rule. Again, flashing lights can make it difficult for the motorist to tell how close you really are.
My current setup is a low-power (and long-lasting) halogen flood light, a more focused and bright halogen spot headlight, and two tail lights: one in flashing mode and one in steady mode. My bicycle has some reflective tape on it and DOT reflectors all around except on the clipless pedals, but many of my accessories also have reflective piping. I finish it off with an inexpensive construction worker reflective vest.
What are you doing to cope with the lack of sunlight as the days get shorter?
You can join us at any of our upcoming events, and we have two opportunities in the next two weeks.
Tenth transportation social and bike or bus ride -- Barracks Road Neighborhood
Date/Time: Friday, August 29, 6:00pm-8:00pm starting at Barracks Road Shopping Center
- Talk about transportation a bit at Barnes & Noble at Barracks Road Shopping Center
- Ride your bicycle or the bus from Barnes & Noble to UVA
- And you may win $1700!!!
Eleventh transportation social and bike ride -- Johnson Village Neighborhood
Date/Time: Thursday, September 4, 6:00pm-7:00pm starting at Johnson Elementary School
- Ride your bicycle from Johnson Elementary School to Forest Hills Park
- Eat & talk about transportation a bit at a picnic at Forest Hills Park
- And you may win $1700!!!
Please join us for one of these fun events and take your chances at winning $1700!! We will have similar events through the end of November -- keep updated by checking out our events calendar (on the sidebar and on the bottom of this webpage).
For the last two weeks, NYC has experimented with an idea of making a major avenue in Manhattan car-free for no particular reason than for the enjoyment of residents and visitors. There were no streetfair vendors hawking $3 tube socks or blended drinks from noisy & polluting generators. Nor was there any excuse like the Marathon or a parade where only invited guests are allowed to run or walk down the middle of the streets.
The majority of retailers who responded to a Bikes Belong survey said their sales of transportation-related bicycles, accessories, and service have increased in 2008 compared to 2007:
* 73% said they are selling more bikes.
* 84% said they are selling more accessories.
* 88% said they are selling more service.
Is this increase in sales because of high gas prices? Most retailers who we surveyed think so:
* 95% of shops said customers cited high gas prices as a reason for their transportation-related purchases.
* 80% of retailers said gas prices were helping them sell more bikes for transportation.
* 86% thought accessory sales were getting a boost.
* 89% said they were selling more service because of high gas prices.
by LHT Rider
It is a sad commentary on the culture we live in that so many of us are afraid to exercise our right to use the public roads in a non-polluting manner. Believe me, I know how you feel. I went from not riding my bicycle for many, many years and have since become a 4-season rider in the northern midwest. Here are some things that have helped me make the transition.
1. Set small, achievable, progressive challenges for yourself. Baby steps are important. See for yourself what you’re truly capable of and question your assumptions. If you are willing to test your preconceived notions, you might be surprised at the results.
2. Allow yourself to do what you need to in order to feel more comfortable. For example if the road immediately adjacent to your house is too scary, allow yourself to ride on the sidewalk for a short distance until you can get somewhere safer. This is legal in many communities. Just remember to: be nice - yield to pedestrians, be careful crossing driveways especially if you do not have a clear line of sight, and do not under any circumstances shoot out into intersections from the sidewalk as car drivers do not expect you to be there.
2. Get a mirror & learn how to use it. It’s much less scary if you know what’s coming up behind you. While some people have no problem just turning around to see what’s behind them while still maintaining a razor sharp straight line, a mirror allows you to check things out more quickly and without the risk of weaving (into traffic, the curb, a pothole etc.)
3. Plan your route. On a bicycle you would almost never take the exact same route as you would in a car (because that’s where all the cars are!). Your city may have a map of official bicycle routes (maybe even online!). This can be extremely helpful and make for a much more pleasant ride.
4. Educate yourself. Read up on how to ride in traffic or refresh your memory on the rules of the road. Learn how to use your gears. A bicycle should give you a mechanical advantage over walking. It doesn’t have to be hard (or racing fast). In addition, as Heather @ SGF says, think about what you’re afraid of happening & figure out what you would do if it actually happened. There’s lots of good advice out there on everything from gear to how to change a tire. (By the way, riding a bicycle really does not require spandex or lycra).
5. Be sure your bicycle fits you. (This is getting easier, but can be difficult for many women.) Also make sure it works properly. There may be adjustments or changes in equipment that can make your ride much more comfortable and enjoyable. I have only recently come to appreciate what an amazing difference tires can make in the of your ride. Think about getting a basket or pannier so that your bicycle can haul more than just you!
6. Demand cycling (and pedestrian) improvements and safety in your community. The only way it will get easier/better for cyclists is if we stand up and say that this is something we care about and should be a priority for where we live.
Goofy stars as a Jekyll and Hyde character, Mr. Walker/Mr. Wheeler. When he’s a pedestrian he’s mild-mannered and rational; when he’s a driver he’s mad and bad.
When it returns from its August recess, the Senate needs to take action on comparable funding measures to ensure urgent improvement in public transportation, ridesharing, walking, cycling, and other travel options so Americans have travel choices at a time of $4 per gallon gas.
RideCivil promots civility between motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. We signal and stop, smile and wave, ride 2 abreast and yeild to pedestrians. We won't be corking or blocking traffic, just safely cycling our city.
So I generally choose not to patronize walmart for several moral reasons...but today I was in desperate need of some CD-Rs so I could mail a file to my university and the only place anywhere near me that sells them is Wally world. So I grudgingly got on my bike and made the 4 mile ride on some pretty dangerous roads only to find that they have no form of bike rack whatsoever. That's typical for this area so I've become used to just taking my bike into stores...in fact I usually use the basket on the back as a shopping cart.
So I walk into the walmart and the most evil grandmother I've ever met grabs my arm with her claws and says I can't bring it into the store. I explained to here there was nowhere outside to lock it up and that I had brought it into that particular store with no problem. She insisted that I had to leave it in the foyer and I calmly said that I wasn't going to leave a 600 dollar bike just sitting in the foyer and that I'd like to speak to her manager.
So the manager comes out and says I can't bring the bike into the store, so I explain to her that there are safe places for people who drive to lock their cars but there is no safe place for me to lock my mode of transportation. She says that I should have driven there I told her that I didn't own a car and that my bike was my only form of transportation and I couldn't risk having it stolen. She said I couldn't bring it in because they sell bikes in the store. So I said but those bikes don't look anything like this and this is clearly not a brand new bike, so why is that a problem. She insisted that for the safety of the other customers I couldn't bring it inside, so I asked her why she thought a bike controlled by an adult was more dangerous than a shopping cart being pushed around by someone's bratty kids. So she switched back to the excuse that they sell bikes in the store so I couldn't bring another bicycle in. I was starting to get really frustrated since I had ridden all the way there seemingly for no reason, so I asked her if they also sold shirts in the store. She said yes so I took off my jersey and said well then I'd better not bring this in either. She got kind of flustered and said that it was a different situation but couldn't explain why. So I said that if they also sold shorts in the store that I'd better not wear those in either and I took off my shorts. Same goes for the shoes and sunglasses. Now I'm standing there in my spandex and a sports bra and I ask here if I can leave my things behind the customer service counter where they will be safe until I finish making my purchases and she said that I couldn't come into the store without shoes on, to which i responded "but I certainly can't wear shoes into the store because you sell those here and someone might think I've stolen them." She threatened to call security if I didn't leave so I told her that I would never be coming back to that store again and that I was glad I hadn't driven there since the gas to go four miles was probably more expensive than what her underpaid employees make in an hour.
Her expression when the shirt came off was absolutely priceless...I was pretty tempted to take off the spandex too but I wasn't sure what constitutes indecent exposure in Virginia so I figured I'd err on the side of caution. Still I had a decent sized crowd gathered before the end of the discussion. Anybody else have issues with Satan's superstore?
As a biker in Charlottesville I am always interested in the many ways the city can improve bike infrastructure, increasing safety and convenience for both motorists and cyclists. While many improvements may be slow to arrive due to time, expense or feasibility, I was recently made aware of one such improvement that may require relatively little time and expense, and is certainly feasible.
Bike friendly cities such as Amsterdam and Portland have already implemented painted bicycle lanes and even cities not known to be particularly bike-friendly, such as New York City, have started to paint bicycle lanes (see the street in Brooklyn pictured above). Incidentally, New York City has even begun to add bicycle lanes physically separated from the street (9th Avenue being one of the first), a step that Charlottesville may eventually look to employ, though not necessarily using the same style or method. Though physical separation requires investment that the city might not be prepared to make at this time, painting the bike lanes might be an easy step to make the lanes more visible to drivers. A study from Portland (see here) shows that prior to painting bicycle lanes 71.7% of motorists properly yielded to bicyclists whereas post-painting the percentage increased to 92%. It certainly seems that this relatively inexpensive step might return real benefits in improved safety and awareness.
Finally, small improvements such as these are the first steps to drawing more citizens to cycling. While Charlottesville already boasts a bronze award for being a "Bicycle Friendly Community," safety is still an issue on my mind as well as, I'm sure, other cyclists. I would wager that the more community members see the city taking small but serious steps towards improving bike infrastructure, the more willing they would be to venture out and experience the benefits of cycling. Painting bicycle lanes is one easy step the city can implement to show our community it is serious about safe, alternative transportation.
By Rachana Dixit, Daily Progress
Published: July 22, 2008
A draft of Virginia’s Statewide Rail Plan recommends implementing a new passenger line with stops in Charlottesville as the first phase of the statewide TransDominion Express, with initial operations that would begin as early as 2010.
The plan was released last week by the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, which examines all state transportation corridors to determine where improvements are needed. Public comment on the draft will be received until Aug. 25.
The passenger line — listed in the plan as a potential rail investment location — would add up to two roundtrip trains per day from Lynchburg to Washington, D.C., with stops in Charlottesville, Culpeper, Manassas and Alexandria. The TransDominion Express, a four-phase venture for which the General Assembly has already earmarked $9.3 million, is a $206 million project that includes expanded service to Richmond, Roanoke and Bristol.
“What’s in the plan is completely consistent with what we had hoped for,” said Meredith Richards, chairwoman of the Piedmont Rail Coalition and a former city councilor. Richards and the coalition have been longtime advocates for increasing train stops in Charlottesville, and 21 area governmental bodies and other organizations recently signed a resolution declaring support for the Lynchburg to Washington line.
“I think the public pressure is going to result in major public investments in rail,” Richards said. Currently, 20 passenger trains run through Charlottesville per week, compared to Lynchburg’s 14 and Richmond’s 126.
Growing ridership demand is one of the reasons the plan cites for adding the new service. According to a 2007 Virginia Amtrak ridership report, last year there were about 48,000 boardings — riders getting on and off a train — from Charlottesville’s West Main Street station.
With no service improvements, the annual Amtrak ridership between the Washington area and Lynchburg is estimated to be between 71,800 and 90,900 by 2030, according to the Statewide Rail Plan report.
If two daily roundtrip trains were added, annual ridership would increase to between 152,800 and 193,300 by 2030.
But for the new TransDominion project to come to fruition, the plan notes that a public-private partnership between the state, Norfolk Southern, Amtrak and federal partners is required. Three of Norfolk Southern’s corridors, including the Crescent that runs through Charlottesville, would be included in the project.
Obtaining funding is an obstacle for the project, since the Lynchburg to Washington line alone would cost the state an additional $1.9 million per year.
In a letter written to Richards, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said his administration “is committed to improving both passenger and freight rail service in the commonwealth,” but no funding sources exist to fund the project.
Richards said a clear funding source has not been defined and the schedule for when the service would start also remains uncertain. Kaine proposed transportation funding legislation during the General Assembly’s recent special session, but it was not passed.
“We don’t really know what they have in mind,” Richards said, referring to the General Assembly.
Zachary Shahan, executive director of the Charlottesville-based Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation, said getting communities to discuss rail options can be difficult.
“It’s hard to get a lot of people behind the initial investment of rail,” Shahan said. But he added that discussion is increasing for multiple reasons, including rising fuel costs and reducing the country’s carbon footprint.
“I think people are starting to come back to it a bit, but there are varied views on this,” Shahan said. “With the trajectory of things it’s only going to become more and more likely.”
To consistently fund and expand rail service, Richards said it would require a whole new paradigm from the state — recognizing the importance of passenger rail and how it contributes to long-term transportation goals.
“That is a big hurdle politically for us to climb,” she said.
Officials at the state rail and public transportation department did not return calls before deadline.
The city has about 5 miles of soft-surface trails — made from dirt or stone dust — and 3.5 miles of hard-surface trails, excluding the Rivanna trail network.
The city’s goal is to build 10 more trail miles by 2015. Increasing the network is partly a result of recommendations from the city’s Bike and Pedestrian Master Plan, adopted by City Council in 2003.
“We’re not just grabbing at thin air in terms of trying to plan,” Svetz said.
Four of the 10 upcoming trails are planned to go near Moore’s Creek and others are planned on Emmet Street, the future Meadowcreek Parkway and near Pen Park, but the city does not own much of the land away from city streets.
Svetz said the city is looking into either purchasing the land or obtaining easements, but the situation has created some unwanted obstacles for trail development. Land purchases will ultimately be decided by City Council.
“If we were able to do it from scratch, that’s one thing,” Svetz said. “We’re dealing with a lot of private properties.”
Construction of all proposed trails is planned to begin by 2011, with many set for this year and 2009. But available funding could also become an obstacle.
Though the city is good to go for the next five years, the project will need to remain in the city’s Capital Improvement Program for two more years in order to complete the trail network by its 2015 target date. And Svetz said trail building is expensive due to material, labor and possible land costs — even the trail at Schenck’s Greenway, a quarter-mile path that runs along Schenck’s Branch Creek between Preston Avenue and the C’ville Coffee shopping center at Harris Street, cost $25,000 to build.
Some in the community think the area is begging for more trails, and having them may ultimately change residents’ transportation habits.
John Holden, vice president of the Rivanna Trails Foundation, said the 20-mile Rivanna network should be better connected with city trails.
“There’s an attempt to connect them all,” he said. “Everywhere needs more trails.”
Zachary Shahan, executive director of the Charlottesville-based Alliance for Community Choice in Transportation, thinks the city’s trail network is limited and is in need of more development. According to the 2000 census, nearly 2 percent of Charlottesville residents biked to work — about five times the national average — and 16 percent of employed people older than 18 walked to work.
“It’s decent compared to other places in the United States, but we would like to make it a much more common mode of transportation here,” Shahan said. But he added, “It’s hard to change habits. You sort of have to go beyond what’s needed.”