Feet First sent the following open letter to the Seattle School Board during deliberations over the 2014-2015 Transportation Service Standards. As school districts across the country reduce yellow bus service, Feet First continues to call for policy and financial support for active transportation to prevent an increase in families driving to school. While the Seattle School District has an exemplary Safe Routes to School policy within its Transportation Service Standards, Feet First argues that its potential has not been met due to lack of personnel to activate the policy. More information about best practices in school bus policy can be found starting page 61 of the Local Policy Guide published by the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.
February 3, 2014
Dear members of the Seattle School Board:
Feet First works to ensure that all communities in Washington are walkable. We work as partners with the Seattle Public Schools to promote Safe Routes to School (SRTS), both through direct service to individual schools, and by serving on the City of Seattle School Traffic Safety Committee.
As you prepare to adopt the Transportation Service Standards for the 2014-2015 school year, we urge you to spend a portion of the $3.4 million dollars in savings to implement the SRTS Biking and Walking Student Wellness Plan unanimously voted into the standards in 2012. SRTS Biking and Walking Student Wellness Plan (“the Plan”) was offered to counterbalance the likelihood of increased driving to school following cuts in yellow bus service. It acknowledged the link between active transportation and student health and wellness, making the Seattle School District a visionary leader in student transportation policy.
One shortfall of the Plan is that it was adopted with no additional funding for implementation. Promoting walking and biking as the preferred mode to driving entails creating campaigns, developing programs, and supporting education to affect behavior change. It is unacceptable to expect that the task of building a walking school bus network, for instance, be assigned to yellow bus service professionals without additional assistance. A full FTE in a SRTS capacity would give the district a big boost in making good on the Plan’s promise.
SRTS programs substantially increase the number of students walking to school. At John Muir Elementary, walking to school increased by 49 percent and arrival and departure procedures were made measurably safer following a SRTS grant with Feet First. At Dearborn Park, three walking school buses run year-round, and walking to school has increased by 59 percent following the end of our program there.
We look for the opportunity to share information about best practices and models for walking school buses that are currently succeeding in individual schools. Please contact Jen Cole, SRTS Program Director by calling 206-652-2310 ext. 2 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.