Detroit population loss means less road funds

The 2010 Census numbers are in and Detroit’s reported population dropped as expected.

The new Census number is 713,777, however that may rise. After all, SEMCOG’s December 2010 population estimate — a very accurate one the data experts say — was 762,789.

Mayor Bing posted on Facebook, “I am confident our count will be revised. We must confront the reality that Detroit is losing population and commit to operating differently.”

How does this affect bicycling in Detroit?

If there is a positive, this population count reconfirms what we’ve been saying about the city’s urban biking. Detroit’s roads are some of the most bike friendly in America because more motorists are leaving them. The Detroit Census count has not been this low since 1910. And though we have greater car ownership in 2010, we also have many more road miles, not to mention expressways.

That said, there are many downsides to a dropping population.

For one, Detroit stands to lose road funding, which means less opportunity for building Complete Streets.

State road funding is divided up in an overly complex formula based on decades of legislative tweaks. Still, each city and village receives a portion of road funding based in part on their population relative to the others. When a city’s population drops more than the other citys and villages, they get less road funding. We’re not sure how much Detroit will lose, but we know it won’t be welcomed.

And, Federal Surface Transportation Program Urban (STP-U) funding is distributed by SEMCOG based on population. Detroit stands to lose road (and ADA ramp) money here as well.

Fortunately, Census population counts do not affect Transportation Enhancements funding which helps pay a lion’s share of the Detroit bike lanes and greenway projects.

Still, the next Federal Transportation Bill may scale back all transportation funding to match gas tax revenues starting in 2012. If that happens everyone across the board will see cuts.

These are certainly challenging times.

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One Response to “Detroit population loss means less road funds”

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