Improving Benefit Estimation for California Active Transportation Projects and Investments

Research Team: Dillon Fitch-Polse (lead), Kari Edison Watkins, Trisalyn Nelson, and Matthew Favetti

UC Campus(es): UC Davis

Additional Research Partners: UC Santa Barbara

Problem Statement: California is making significant investments in active transportation (AT), especially through the statewide Active Transportation Program (ATP). Evaluating these investments is crucial to understanding their impact. The California AT Benefit-Cost Tool, or "BC Tool," developed by UC Davis, is currently the leading method for estimating AT benefits. It's being used by the California Transportation Commission (CTC) to evaluate ATP projects concerning safety, physical activity, local pollutants, and greenhouse gas emissions. However, the BC Tool currently lacks local data on walking and bicycling, limiting its ability to estimate the actual benefits of completed projects. To enhance the BC Tool for local ATP evaluation and make it a more effective planning tool, it's essential to integrate local data on walking and bicycling into the framework and model. Moreover, it's crucial to validate the model at the local project scale and ensure that the evaluation criteria align with the needs of decision-makers.

Project Description: The project will assess active transportation initiatives in Santa Barbara and a sample of California Active Transportation Program (ATP) funded projects in various regions using the BC Tool. The researchers will: i) develop a method to include local data into the BC Tool for benefit evaluation, ii) enhance the BC Tool's accuracy for project-level assessments by incorporating representative training data from all over California in collaboration with Eco-Counter, iii) verify the model and tool's effectiveness for statewide application, and iv) promote the adoption of the tool for evaluating active transportation projects. The City of Santa Barbara, with its diverse neighborhoods in terms of income and ethnicity, is an excellent candidate for evaluating active transportation. The city has gathered data for all chosen infrastructure projects, which will support benefit estimation. Additionally, the research team will collaborate with the California Transportation Commission and Caltrans to select ATP-funded projects that meet the criteria of having submitted local count data before and/or after project completion. The evaluation will involve collecting local data, estimating walking and biking miles before, and in some cases after, project completion using local data. It will also assess key benefits such as mode shift, safety enhancements (reductions in accidents, injuries, and fatalities), physical activity, and reductions in vehicle miles traveled, greenhouse gas emissions, and criteria pollutants.

Status: In Progress

Budget: $271,767