Online Program

An evaluation of the effectiveness of the federal safe routes to school program using before-and-after data from four states

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Noreen McDonald, PhD, Department of City and Regional Planning, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC
Ruth Steiner, PhD, Department of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL
Chanam Lee, PhD, MLA, Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
Yizhao Yang, PhD, Department of Planning, Public Policy & Management, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR
Xuemei Zhu, PhD, Department of Architecture, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
Tori Rhoulac Smith, PhD, Civil & Environmental Engineering, Howard University, Washington, DC
In 2005, the U.S. Congress identified increasing walking and bicycling to school and making it safer for children to do so a critical national objective in the Safe Efficient, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy to Its Users (SAFETEA-LU). Since the passage of this legislation, the USDOT has allocated over $1.15 billion to fund Safe Routes to School (SRTS) interventions throughout the country. Although the program has received much media attention, no large-scale before-and-after study has been completed to understand the effectiveness of SRTS interventions. As structured by Congress, the SRTS program required that between 70% and 90% of the funds be spend on infrastructure projects (e.g., sidewalks, off-road facilities) and the remaining 10% and 30% be spent on non-infrastructure projects, such as safety education, encouragement and enforcement. This paper presents the results of a two-year study in which data on the specific type of intervention, the expenditures and the timing of the interventions was collected on SRTS expenditures in four states – Florida, Texas, Oregon, and the District of Columbia. The data on the interventions is matched to the data that has been collected on the number of children walking and bicycling to school as reported in the data collected by the National Center for Safe Routes to School. These data are then compared to control schools to measure the effectiveness of the SRTS expenditures while controlling for other factors, such as the location of the school, the socio-demographics of the neighborhood and the safety of the neighborhood. Results suggest that some SRTS interventions have increased walking and biking to school and show strong promise in increasing physical activity.

Learning Areas:

Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Public health or related public policy

Learning Objectives:
Describe and summarize the expenditures under the federal Safe Routes to School program in five states Identify factors contributing to changes in the number of children walking and bicycling to school before and after infrastructure and non-infrastructure investments Evaluate the effectiveness of the federal Safe Routes to School program.

Keyword(s): Physical Activity, School-Based Programs

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the PI on the RWJF grant supporting this research and have overseen the project.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.