Neighborhood effects of safe routes to school programs on the likelihood of active travel to school

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Contribution to a Book

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Transportation Research Record







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Safe routes to school (SRTS) programs aim to increase the share of students commuting to school by active modes (e.g., walking and cycling). This study measures the relationship between the presence of SRTS programs in a neighborhood and children’s journey-to-school mode choice. Children were identified from households in the 2012 California Household Travel Survey and they were classified based on whether they commuted to school by active modes. Next, census tracts with SRTS programs were identified based on the presence of data in the National Center for Safe Routes to School (NCSRTS) data collection system. Based on these two datasets, a logistic regression model estimated the likelihood that a child commuted to school by active modes, based on the presence of a SRTS program and controlling for individual, household, and tract characteristics. This analysis was supplemented with stakeholder interviews about the nature of SRTS programs within the study area and how they are perceived. Findings indicate that longer trip distance and race (relative to white students) are associated with reduced rates of active travel to school, but that these differences are mitigated by the presence of SRTS programs. Interviews suggest SRTS programs in the study area primarily emphasize education and encouragement rather than engineering interventions. It was concluded that the effect of such SRTS programming might best be described as reducing barriers to active school travel rather than simply increasing the likelihood of using active modes.

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Urban and Regional Planning