Minneapolis recently released a draft of a Bicycle Master Plan for the city. It includes a list of projects with a summary of eligibility for funding based on a number of qualifying criteria. As an astute commenter noticed, a surprising number of projects meet all the qualifying criteria except “Operations and Maintenance”. The plan explains the Operations and Maintenance criteria this way:
Are the operations and maintenance responsibilities defined? Proposed projects must identify how a project will be maintained before it can be submitted. Projects must also demonstrate that the project can be maintained in a cost effective manner for the life of the project.
In Chapter 8 of the plan (page 8-5), we get a hint about why so many projects are not meeting the O&M criterion:
The [Minneapolis] Public Works operating budget has been stretched to the point where new outside funding sources must be identified in order to provide adequate maintenance for new bicycle related projects.
If the project doesn’t have outside funds for maintenance (not just capital), the city can’t build it. That makes sense, because we don’t want brand new trails only to see them crumble in a few years. The plan identifies a number of potential permanent funding sources for maintenance, including a maintenance endowment, a sales tax on bikes and equipment, bicycle registration fees, naming rights and advertising, and more.
This is an important issue. Clearly this is one of the major barriers to getting new bicycle projects built in the city. The plan proposes a dedicated funding stream for capital projects, but the answer for maintenance costs seems less certain. What are your ideas for funding ongoing maintenance of bicycle facilities? Would you support a sales tax on bikes and equipment? What about a bicycle registration fee?