Online Program

Measuring and maximizing walk to school potential: A data-driven approach to safe routes to school programming

Wednesday, November 6, 2013 : 8:48 a.m. - 9:06 a.m.

Timothy Reardon, MCP, Data Services Department, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Boston, MA
Thomas Land, PhD, Bureau of Community Health and Prevention, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Boston, MA
Wenjun Li, PhD, Health Statistics and Geography Lab, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, MA
Bonnie Andrews, MPH, CPH, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Boston, MA
Andrea Pinzon, MPH, Division of Prevention and Wellness, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, Boston, MA
Wendy Landman, MCP, WalkBoston, Boston, MA
Mariana Arcaya, ScD, MCP, Society Human Development and Health, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA
Previous research finds that travel distance, a function of both infrastructure availability and home/school locations, is the principal determinant of student travel mode. However, few Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs use spatial data to quantify mode shift potential before prioritizing scarce resources or setting outcome objectives. We offer a new analytic approach that helps target intervention to students who could walk or bike to school but are currently being driven. We mapped a pedestrian network comprising: 1) roadways with sidewalks, 2) low-volume roadways, and 3) school grounds for over 800 Massachusetts schools and delineated 0.5, 1.0, and 1.5 mile ‘walksheds' around each school. We used a new parent survey instrument (paper and online) to gather the following student data: grade; home location; mode to and from school (most days); and vehicle availability. A survey of 9,000 students in 15 urban and suburban schools generated 4,500 responses. 54% of students living in the 1.0 mile walkshed are driven to school. Walking/biking account for 26% of all school trips and 36% of trips less than one mile. Proximity is a prerequisite to high walk/bike shares, which exceed 30% only when more than 75% of students live within one mile. Schools with a high student proximity and low walk/bike share represent the best potential for mode shift and greenhouse gas reductions of up to 5%. New tools can help communities target SRTS programs to schools and neighborhoods where they are likely to have the greatest impact.

Learning Areas:

Other professions or practice related to public health
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Program planning
Public health or related organizational policy, standards, or other guidelines
Public health or related public policy
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Describe a new analytic approach for assessing walk to school potential Identify categories of walk to school potential and their implications for public health interventions

Keyword(s): Physical Activity, Community-Based Public Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have led numerous local and regional planning efforts at the intersection of land use, transportation, public policy, and technology. I was the lead author of the regional plan for Metro Boston and am responsible for the development of the region’s population and housing forecasts. My practice includes scenario modeling, development of new datasets, and the estimation of transportation and environmental impacts of alternative land use, transportation, or travel behavior scenarios.
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.