School Travel Planning

School Travel Planning is a community-based approach that has been used with success to increase the number of children choosing active transportation modes to get to and from school.

School Travel Planning works to uncover the transportation challenges faced by school communities, and identify the resources and strategies necessary to overcome them.

What is School Travel Planning?

School Travel Planning addresses the issues of sustainability, safety and health associated with ‘the school run’ using a collaborative community-based approach. Key community stakeholders (school boards, municipalities, police, public health professionals, parents, educators and children/youth) work together with an STP Facilitator to identify and solve their school transportation problems.

While the physical and attitudinal barriers to walking, cycling and other environmentally friendly modes of travel are addressed, all aspects of how children travel to and from school are investigated and documented. A key emphasis is placed on determining the extent to which a community allows for the independent mobility of children. Each school develops a School Travel Plan which includes an action plan section describing steps they plan to implement such as:

  • Introduction of school infrastructure—e.g. bike shelters, bike racks, lockers;
  • Education—e.g. safety training for walking and cycling, awareness raising;
  • Community mobilization—e.g. walking school busses, walking buddies, ride sharing;
  • Encouragement—e.g. celebrations of physical activity and environment, event days, recognition and rewards for walking/biking; and
  • Engineering improvements at or near school sites—e.g. pedestrian crossings, adult crossing guards, repairs and upgrades to sidewalks, signage.

Benefits of School Travel Planning

School Travel Planning aims to decrease the number of car trips and increase the number of children walking and wheeling to and from school resulting in:

  • Improved health & fitness of the students;
  • Improved safety for students;
  • Reduced congestion;
  • Positive environmental impacts: reduced pollution, improved air quality, fewer greenhouse gas emissions that impact climate change; and
  • Potential cost savings: opportunity for parents to reduce expenditures on gas, chance for school boards to reduce bussing costs (in cases where children are bussed due to safety, i.e. lack of sidewalks or need to cross a busy street, rather than distance), chance for municipalities to save staff time in long term as recurrent safety issues are dealt with and parent complaints decline, plus opportunity to drastically reduce the cost of principal time wasted in dealing with traffic-related complaints each day.

How does the School Travel Planning process work?

A dedicated School Travel Plan Facilitator leads schools and the wider community through five steps (which do not flow in a linear order, but often overlap, e.g. implementation usually begins before action planning is complete):

  1. Program Set-up – Select municipality; establish a Municipal Stakeholder Committee with representation from all key groups; choose schools that are committed to project; establish a School STP Committee at each school comprised of school staff, parents, interested community members and lead students; and determine project timeline.
  2. Data Collection & Problem Identification – Conduct Classroom Hands-up Student Survey, Family Survey and Traffic/Pedestrian/Cyclist Observation; coordinate School Site Visit & Walkabout with key stakeholders; complete the School Profile in the School Travel Plan document; analyze data collected (ideally with assistance from your local university or college—this project makes a good hands-on project for students); summarize issues identified in the School Travel Plan.
  3. Action Planning – School STP Committee designs a plan of action for dealing with challenges identified and achieving stated goals (including initiatives, timeline and assignment of responsibility for each task). At this stage a written Action Plan document is compiled and is incorporated in to the school's own School Travel Plan.
  4. Implementation – Action items are carried out.
  5. Ongoing Monitoring – Follow up data collection is done to evaluate progress toward goals. The plan is tweaked as necessary. A School Travel Plan is intended to be a living document that becomes part of school policy and is revisited and updated on a regular basis.

School Travel Planning Timeline

School Travel Planning is a 14-18 month process. It can begin in the Fall or Spring.

If you would like more information about School Travel Planning in BC, please contact info@hastebc.org