Four Different Regional Approaches to Safe Routes to School

In 2012, Congress made changes to Federal funding for Safe Routes to School that gave some metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs), which are regional transportation planning authorities, decision-making authority over which projects to fund. Given these changes, it is important to examine the impact of the role of MPOs on the availability of funding for Safe Routes to School initiatives and to identify best practices.

Nearly 200 MPOs around the country control more than $200 million in Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funding each year. A new information brief, issued today by the National Center for Safe Routes to School and written by the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, demonstrates how regional transportation planning authorities or MPOs can advance Safe Routes to School priorities using the relatively new Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP).

Download the brief (pdf).

boy and mom in the rain

The brief profiles four MPOs, each of which used a thoughtful and innovative approach to TAP that was ultimately beneficial to the safety of children and families on the trip to and from school.

Profiles include:

  • Maricopa Association of Governments (Phoenix, AZ):  Created separate applications and funding streams for Safe Routes to School infrastructure and non-infrastructure—including a new measure of student safety—to ensure that both types of projects would be funded.
  • Metropolitan Transportation Commission (San Francisco, CA): Provided extra points for projects consistent with regional priorities, including Safe Routes to School, and engaged reviewers from the region that were experts in bicycle, pedestrian or health issues.
  • Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (Las Vegas, NV):  Consulted with stakeholders to develop TAP funding priorities—which included Safe Routes to School projects—and  created different scoring criteria depending on the type of project.
  • North Central Texas Council of Governments (Dallas-Fort Worth, TX): Created scoring matrix that provided points for several areas related to Safe Routes to School and did extensive outreach to encourage local governments and school systems to partner on applications.

Advocates and MPOs staff alike can review the brief for practices that will ensure that the region’s transportation needs—including those affecting the trip to school—are addressed through TAP.

The National Center for Safe Routes to School and the Safe Routes to School National Partnership will co-host a webinar in December 2015 featuring several staff from the MPOs profiled in the brief.

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