What Is Safe Routes To School
In recent decades, the number of students walking or biking to school has sharply declined. During the same period, an alarming upward trend of childhood obesity and physical inactivity has occurred. Students being driven to school generates substantial traffic congestion and contributes to air pollution that affects the health of everyone in our communities.
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs are part of the solution to reversing these trends. SRTS programs aim at increasing the number of students who choose active (walking, bicycling, scooter, skateboarding) or shared (public transit, carpooling) mode of transportation to school by making it safer and more accessible to walk, bicycle and/or take transit.
The “Six E’s Plus" Approach
SRTS programs support the goal of creating a safer environment for students to walk, bicycle or take public transit to school -- but SRTS is not one-size-fits-all. What works at one school may not work at another, and SRTS relies on a menu of activities and programming that can be customized by local champions to best fit the need of schools and local community. Most SRTS efforts can be organized into the following elements, commonly referred to as the “Six E’s.” A comprehensive SRTS program will include all Six E’s in order to complement and reinforce the goals of safe, healthy and active transportation to and from school.
Encouragement – Events, activities and contests that spark interest in both students and parents in walking and biking to school, reward participation, promote the personal and community benefits of SRTS, and make walking or biking to school fun.
Education – Classes and activities that teach students, parents and community members safe walking and bicycling skills including safe driving behavior. In addition, programs for parents and school staff to learn about safety tips and how to develop and sustain a SRTS program.
Engineering – Infrastructure improvements (signage, crosswalks, traffic signals, etc) designed to improve the safety of people walking, bicycling, and driving along school routes.
Enforcement – Strategies to deter the unsafe behavior of drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians, and educate all users on obeying traffic laws and following appropriate drop-off and pick-up procedures.
Evaluation – Tracking progress through regular counts, surveys, and other data collection to determine impact on student travel behavior as well as effectiveness of specific program elements.
Equity – Should be integrated into all aspects of SRTS. Acknowledgement of the different challenges and barriers that students face is important to ensure that Safe Routes to School initiatives are benefiting all demographic groups. Equity, as it relates to SRTS, is about ensuring all students have safe access to and from school.
Plus – Partnership plays a key role in SRTS efforts, as the programs are typically led and sustained through extensive cooperation among SRTS champions and key stakeholders, such as parents, schools and school districts, law enforcement, public health organizations, local government agencies, non-profit groups and community members. When developing and/or sustaining your SRTS programs, look for opportunities to collaborate with other ongoing efforts that share similar objectives. Such efforts may include school wellness programs, traffic fatality reduction policies, gang violence reduction, and youth development activities.
Metro’s Safe Routes To School Pilot Program
In 2013, Metro received a Caltrans’ SRTS grant and implemented a 3-year Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Pilot Program to initiate and help sustain SRTS programs at 10 pilot schools in LA County. The schools were chosen based on a variety of factors, including high bicycle and pedestrian collisions near school campus and demographic data about the student population. The Pilot Program is a non-infrastructure program consisting of education, encouragement, enforcement, evaluation activities, equity considerations, and included the development of travel plans for each of the ten pilot schools. The pilot program provided Metro with information and data to help inform the Countywide Safe Routes to School Initiative and the development of the Countywide Safe Routes to School Resource Manual .
The 10 schools that took part in the pilot program are:
- Charles White Elementary School
- Dayton Heights Elementary School
- Gratts Learning Academy for Young Scholars
- Grant Elementary School
- John Adams Middle School
- Kingsley Elementary School
- Leo Politi Elementary School
- Los Feliz STEMM Magnet
- Ramona Elementary School
- Tenth Street Elementary School
Metro developed the Metro Countywide Safe Routes to School Resource Manual to provide guidance to aid schools in building and sustaining a successful SRTS program. It provides resources and program suggestions for school administrators, teachers, parents, community members, and other champions of SRTS projects and programs throughout LA County. The Manual includes fact sheets on the benefits of SRTS to help inspire action, a catalog of suggested programs and activities with step-by-step instructions, as well as sample materials and templates that SRTS champions can download, copy, and distribute.
Remember that SRTS is fully customizable – everything in this Resource Manual can be tailored to fit your school’s unique needs, students and schedule.
Many of the SRTS activities can be carried out by parent volunteers, student volunteers, and school staff with minimal investment. However, funding for larger project or program efforts may be necessary. Successful implementation of district-wide programs, engineering/infrastructure improvement and enforcement strategies may require more significant investment.
SRTS programs and activities are eligible for federal, state, regional and local funding. Please consider partnering with local agencies and community based organizations when applying for funding.
Metro also recommends stakeholders to explore the list of active transportation-related funding opportunities at Upcoming Active Transportation Funding Opportunity Log
Sources for SRTS Funding consideration include:
- Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST ACT) : The FAST ACT leaves each state Department of Transportation with discretion about whether to fund Safe Routes to School projects, and how much funding to dedicate to these initiatives. (Only infrastructure projects are eligible.)
- Highway Safety Improvement Program : Provides funding for bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements, as well as education and encouragement programs. (Both infrastructure and non-infrastructure are eligible.)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) : Grants and contracts are available for programs and projects that support the mission of promoting health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability. (Only non-infrastructure projects are eligible.)
- Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) : Grants are available for environmental education projects that enhance the public's awareness, knowledge and skills to help people make informed decisions that affect environmntal quality. (Non- Infrastructure Only)
- Active Transportation Program (ATP) :The ATP consolidates existing federal and state transportation programs, including State Safe Routes to School (SR2S), into a single program with a focus to make California a national leader in active transportation. (Infrastructure and Non-Infrastructure)
- Caltrans Sustainable Communities Grant Program : The Sustainable Communities Grants fund transportation planning projects that achieve the Caltrans Mission and Grant Program Overarching Objectives, identify and address mobility deficiencies in the multimodal transportation system, encourage stakeholder collaboration, involve active public engagement, integrate Smart Mobility 2010 concepts, and ultimately result in programmed system improvements.. Community to school studies or safe routes to school studies or plans are eligible project types. (Non-Infrastructure Only)
- Caltrans Planning & Environmental Justice Grants : Caltrans also administers Transportation Planning Grant awards that improve mobility by innovatively solving problems or deficiencies in the transportation system. (Infrastructure and Non-Infrastructure)
Community Based Transportation Grant Program : The Community-Based Transportation Planning (CBTP) grant program promotes transportation and land use planning projects that encourage community involvement and partnership. These grants include community and key stakeholder input, collaboration, and consensus building through an active public engagement process. (Non-Infrastructure Only)
Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) Grants : The Office of Traffic Safety distributes grants statewide to establish new traffic safety programs or fund ongoing safety programs. OTS grants may only be applied to non-infrastructure projects, such as Walk Safe, Bike Safe Train the Trainer Programs. (Non-Infrastructure Only)
Metro Call for Projects: Every other year, Metro accepts Call for Projects applications in eight modal categories. Local jurisdictions, transit operators, and other public agencies are encouraged to submit applications proposing projects for funding. (Infrastructure Only)
SCAG Sustainability Planning Grants : The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) provides Sustainability Planning Grants, which are opportunities for local planning efforts to become regional showcases for great planning. Grants are available in three categories for Active Transportation Projects. (Non-Infrastructure Only)