Policy Brief #3: Where Economic Development and Transportation Intersect

We’re doing a series of policy briefs to highlight the overlap between multimodal transportation and other important issues in the metro. You can check out the other installments here.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacted a devastating toll on nearly every segment of our local, state, and federal economies. How we move in this moment and beyond, be it walking, cycling, rolling, transit, or otherwise, will determine much of how our economic prospects recover and transform. For BikeWalkKC, that means an equitable, data-driven approach to multimodal infrastructure investments.

To better understand this intersection, we start with the individual and move to the broader community.

Household Savings: Land use decisions that reinforce driving mean that most households must spend a significant amount of money on transportation. As a result, transportation is the second highest household expense, behind only housing.

How can greater transportation choice help ease household expenses? Consider the drafted Bike KC Master Plan. If the plan were adopted and fully implemented, KC area households would “accumulate more than $5,000 over the course of implementation”. Further, operation of the bike plan would lead “to a net annual gain of more than $400 per household by 2050.” This is the result of a number of factors, including greater physical activity and decreased air pollution.

Healthcare Savings: America has a serious problem with inactivity. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 1 in 4 adults and only 1 in 5 high school students meet the recommended physical activity guidelines. Inactive lifestyles can create or exacerbate a host of health problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease, adding up to about $117 billion in health care costs every year.

How does multimodal infrastructure help to alleviate this? Building more sidewalks, trails, and bike paths provide important opportunities for people to easily access and engage in physical activity, helping prevent or mitigate the effects of the aforementioned diseases. A 2011 study concluded, for example, that the physical activity from cycling for residents in Iowa was associated with about $354 million in lower health care costs per year.

City Budgets: It’s no secret that cities across the country and around the world have already faced significant budget shortfalls as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In a worst case scenario, KCMO could have to cut as much as $300 million from its budget.

Yet infrastructure repairs and updates still need to happen, and this is where considerations for multimodal infrastructure come into play. The City had already made policy steps in this direction by adopting a Complete Streets ordinance in 2017, which relies on careful planning for effective measures at little or no extra cost. Rather than simply trying to build everything at once, KCMO could follow the approach of a place like Colorado Springs. There, they have used their routine repaving schedule as an opportunity to implement road diets that help expand multimodal infrastructure.

Quick Facts

How BikeWalkKC supports Economic Development

  • We have successfully advocated for dedicated multimodal funding in the Kansas state budget.
  • BikeWalkKC supports zero-fare transit and supports efforts to develop a regional funding mechanism for the same purpose.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have worked to ensure that bike share is available to local businesses and essential workers and that bike shops in the metro are deemed “essential businesses” and allowed to remain open.

Multimodal infrastructure plays a vital role in how we develop our local economies and who we enable to thrive within them. As we struggle with the uncertainty of this pandemic and the enduring pain of systemic racism, we must continue to understand the ways that transportation choice can enable us to afford a good quality of life.

Did you know? BikeWalkKC’s advocacy efforts are member-supported! You can lend your voice to our work by becoming a member today. And get the latest on bicycle- and pedestrian-related happenings when you subscribe to our newsletter!

Further Reading
Bikenomics: How Bicycle Can Save the Economy by Elly Blue

Protected Bike Lanes Mean Business by People for Bikes

Trail Benefits Library by Headwaters Economics

Economic Impact Analysis of the Kansas City, MO Bicycle Master Plan: Summary of Findings by Dr. Michael Frisch and Josh Boehm

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