A School Travel Survey is a questionnaire sent home to parents and families asking them about their transportation activities and concerns. Note: this Toolkit deals with electronic/online surveys only – to understand why and/or for more information on paper surveys, skip to the Additional Considerations section below.
Surveys are a useful way of gathering information from a large number of people. A School Travel Survey can help you learn how your school community travels, why they make the choices they do, and what would encourage families who drive to shift towards more active modes. It is also an opportunity for community members to share their concerns or ideas on how trips to school could be made more active, fun and safe. Finally, running a School Travel Survey allows you to connect with members of your school community who are interested in helping encourage more active trips to school.
The more people answer a survey, the more useful its data will be. Work with your school’s administration to ensure that as many parents as possible receive and respond to your transportation survey: they will likely have the most comprehensive and effective means of contacting parents electronically. Your school's Parent Advisory Council will likely have its own communication channels, such as an email list and social media feeds, through which to alert or remind parents about the survey.
Step 1: Decide what you want to knowOnce you have your school’s administration on board (see the WHO section above), decide what survey questions you want to ask. The online survey template provided has a set of standard questions drawn from the School Travel Planning toolkit that are designed to gather information such as:
- how families at your school travel,
- under what conditions they would walk or cycle,
- what safety concerns they have, and
- who is interested in helping to encourage walking and cycling.
Step 2: Distribute and collect your surveysThe more people answer a survey, the more useful its data will be. To ensure your survey garners as many responses as possible:
- send it out alone, rather than as a link in a newsletter or part of a larger package;
- supplement your paper survey or email with other prompts, such as posts on your PAC Facebook page, blog posts on your school’s website, email reminders or mentions in newsletters, etc.;
- provide a deadline of one week for responses to encourage parents to respond immediately rather than setting it aside for later – you can always extend the deadline if your response rate is low; and
- track your returns and send out a reminder after a few days if they seem low.
Step 3: Review your dataThe online survey provided in the Additional Considerations will automatically sort and present your survey data. Hopefully, the information you’ve gathered will give you a clear understanding of how your school community travels, the challenges and barriers its families face, and who is interested in helping you encourage more active trips to school. Have a look at the results, and share them with other members of your school community through PAC meetings, in newsletters, etc.
You can send out the survey any time - but be aware that travel behaviour may change throughout the year: a survey administered in the spring or fall will likely find higher rates of walking and cycling than one sent home in the middle of the winter.