What does it cost to make a school safe for walking and bicycling?

UPDATED 5/17/2016

We get a lot of questions about cost for Safe Routes to School improvements, and it’s difficult to answer. First we have to know what the school needs — a school assessment, or action plan, is a helpful start, but not every school has one. Costs for pedestrian and bicycle safety infrastructure needs around schools often vary greatly from city to city and state to state, but in general are low-cost compared to the costs of building new roadways. The one-time cost for infrastructure improvements vary based on school needs, but conservative improvements identified at surveyed schools in Oregon indicate an average of $1 million per school in infrastructure needs. New Jersey Safe Routes to School has a good tool for estimating costs.

Generally, the one-mile area around a school is considered the “walk zone” — where no yellow school bus service is available. In the Portland Metro region and elsewhere in Oregon and Washington, jurisdictions have begun the work of identifying the specific safety needs  around schools so they can gather a comprehensive picture of needs and  begin to tackle them.

Our work with local and regional jurisdictions to support allocation of funding toward these projects ensures we can begin to address this issue – especially at schools where the needs are greatest because kids are already walking along and across unsafe streets. It’s important to remember that it’s not just students who need to walk or bicycle near schools – school staff, neighbors, those getting to a transit stop or a local shop, and visitors do, too.

Here are a few examples. Continue reading

Regional funding looks at students’ travel needs

Arguably, transportation investments made for one part of a community can benefit others — such as a street to a new development, which serves people driving to and from their homes and service deliveries, but also serves older adults who walk for health, exercise, and to maintain social connections, as well as youth walking or bicycling to and from school, the library, or their local playground.


Roadway infrastructure investments are relatively clear cut, but the often understated and “softer” side of transportation — what’s typically referred to as travel options — involves a focus on the education and encouragement of specific populations toward their travel options, and why and how they should use them.

In the Portland Metro region, Regional Travel Options (RTO) grants fund projects that help improve the transportation system through education and encouragement of travel choices to and from work or school, such as carpooling, riding transit, walking, and bicycling. These programs help the region in numerous ways by both improving mobility and reducing pollution from car trips. While this funding opportunity has traditionally focused on employer-based, commuting, and adult needs for travel options, there is a very real need for our youth to also be the recipient of education and encouragement focused on their unique travel options.

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Sign the petition to support safe routes to school For Every Kid

Join us as we fight to ensure health and safety for every kid by urging Metro to invest in safe routes to school for every kid in the Metro-area.

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In the coming months, Metro Council has the opportunity to dedicate critical funding that could shape a healthy future for every kid in Multnomah, Clackamas, and Washington Counties. When it is safe, convenient, and fun to walk to neighborhood schools, our children are healthier, our streets are safer for everyone, and our communities thrive. Every kid in Oregon deserves a chance at a healthy future.

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RTO Grant Workshop Friday 9/12

Considering applying for a Metro Regional Travel Options (RTO) grant? $2.1 million is available for projects carried out within the tri-county region including urbanized portions of Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington County. This Friday’s workshop will offer an overview of 2015-2017 RTO grant program, including funding, evaluation, and an opportunity to ask your burning RTO questions.

The four key categories for measuring RTO outcomes are Environment, Equity, Health, and Economy — come find out how your Safe Routes to School program can fit right in.

  • Friday, September 12, 10 a.m. to noon
  • Metro Council Chamber, 600 NE Grand Ave, Portland

Please RSVP to Pamela.Blackhorse@oregonmetro.gov as soon as possible if you will be attending. See you there!

Metro Regional Travel Options (RTO) Grant Funding, $2.1M Available

Oregon Metro’s Regional Travel Options (RTO) grant cycle is now open with $2.1 million available for projects carried out within the Metro boundary — the tri-county region surrounding Portland including Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington Counties.


“Travel Options” projects are those that help improve the transportation system through education and encouragement of travel choices to and from work or school, such as carpooling, riding transit, walking, and bicycling. These programs help the region in numerous ways by both improving mobility and reducing pollution from car trips.

Safe Routes to School projects are a great fit for this grant opportunity, and you are welcome and strongly encouraged to apply! The four key categories for measuring RTO outcomes are Environment, Equity, Health, and Economy — and Safe Routes to School programs fit right in.

  • Environment: Safe Routes to School programs help the environment by reducing pollutants and consumption of energy and non-renewable resources through educating students on how to safely walk and bike to school, giving them the maps and other tools to do so, and providing support and encouragement for more children to walk to and from school together.
    • School drop-offs contribute as much as 25% of morning traffic.
    • In many cases, the drop-off trip is less than three miles — and the parent returns home after drop-off.
    • Some schools have seen a 50% reduction in parent car drop-off rates following the introduction of Safe Routes to School programs.
  • Equity: Safe Routes to School is all about creating opportunities for greater accessibility of travel options for our children to get to and from school and in their communities.
    • Many schools have high rates of kids coming from low-income households. Safe Routes to School projects benefit ALL students living within 1-2 miles of a school equally, benefiting underserved individuals and communities equitably and helping reduce household transportation costs.
  • Health: Safe Routes to School programs promote health benefits for our kids by creating and encouraging opportunities for use of healthier travel options.
    • The US Department of Health recommends people get at least 2.5 hours of physical activity per week.
    • For many kids in Oregon, a walk to or from school may be their only opportunity to get physical activity during the entire school day.
  • Economy: Safe Routes to School programs are a tried, tested, and cost-effective way to promote low-cost travel options for our youth to get to and from school. Kids who get physical activity in the morning are better primed to learn and there may be a reduced absenteeism benefit. Safe Routes to School programs also benefit the community at large by providing safe, healthy ways for people of all ages to get around in our neighborhoods.

Read on to find out who’s eligible to apply, how much is available for a project, when you need to apply, and how to get more information and help.

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Meet Us in East Multnomah County!

Come join friends and colleagues to learn more about the future of walkability and Safe Routes to School in the greater Portland metropolitan region, with a focus on East Multnomah County.

Find out more about our walkability strategy and how you can help ensure success, and hear from speakers from around the county who will give updates on topics of interest for Multnomah County. This is also an opportunity to network while enjoying light appetizers and delicious local beverages. Conveniently located just a seven minute walk from the Gresham Central MAX station.

Wednesday, August 20, 5-7:30pm in Gresham.

RSVP for location information: on Facebook or Eventbrite.

Tell your friends and invite others interested in improving the health and transportation accessibility for people of all ages in East Multnomah County! We look forward to meeting you there.

Active Transportation Plan adopted by Metro Council

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a Regional Active Transportation Plan (ATP), that Metro has adopted by resolution today, July 17, 2014.

Through the ATP we can see what it would look like with complete walking and bicycling networks, access to transit, and safe routes to everywhere. One thing that’s great about the ATP is that it’s based on local jurisdictions’ already existing plans to make pedestrian and bicycle improvements. The ATP is also essential to Metro’s Climate Smart Communities Scenario Project. Based on the cost-benefit analysis of investments, it is clear that quickly implementing the ATP is a smart, low-cost, and effective step toward meeting our requirement to address greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, and also to support the aspirations of local jurisdictions and people around the region who want vibrant neighborhoods with safe and reliable transportation options.

Let’s take a minute to applaud all the hard work and commitment of Metro to active transportation in the region. Let us celebrate the adoption of this plan and what a great step forward for our region.

Now, we need to start thinking about how we actually get those regional walking and bicycling networks built. Because if we don’t change the way we make decisions and investments for our transportation system, the walking and bicycling networks which that plan lays out will not be realized for more than 200 years. Even if our current regional rate of investing is active transportation projects were tripled, children born in 2014 would still not have the opportunity to benefit from a comprehensive and complete active transportation network in their lifetime.

As planning, project, and funding decisions are made over the next 6-12 months for our region, stick with us to find out ways you can engage and help support decision making that supports equitable transportation decisions, funding, and your ability to walk.

We’re working with partners like you. Want to get more involved? Sign up as a partner of Safe Routes to School Pacific Northwest and find out how to get involved in one of our newly forming committees — no worries and no commitment, we’ll always ask you if you want to sign on to a letter and you can always change your mind. Contact Kari at kari@saferoutespartnership.org.

Let’s create a culture of walking.