Creating safer, greener modes of transportation for students

Editor's note: Today's Street Smarts column comes from Jeanne LePage, a Senior Program Specialist with the Transportation group at Ecology Action. She manages the Safe Routes to School encouragement program. Email her at jlepage@ecoact.org. School morning and afternoon pickups are some of the most traffic heavy times of the day in our city. At our 10 city school sites, almost 6,000 students come and go to school every day. The majority of those students arrive in cars and most of those cars only contain a single family. With limited growth options and increasing school enrollment, Ecology Action and the City of Santa Cruz Public Works are launching an effort funded by a Caltrans Planning grant to examine the barriers to safe and sustainable transportation at city school sites. With the majority of students residing within 1.5 miles from their school, why aren’t more kids biking and walking? This effort will take an inventory of what conditions currently exist at schools and create a plan to increase transportation options. The project launches this week with two community forums to be held 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23 in the Santa Cruz High Auditorium and Thursday, Oct. 24 in the Harbor High Multi-Purpose Room. Santa Cruz City Public Works and Ecology Action staff, as well as transportation consultant Alta Planning and Design, will be present. Come learn about the project, how to participate in an upcoming bike and walk audit at your school site and provide your input on challenge areas and opportunities for improvement. Large format maps of each school site will be on hand so community members can share their experience and insights. Spanish translation will be available and kids are welcome. If you cannot make one of these meeting times, you can submit comments using our online Public Comment Form. In addition to the public input opportunities, during the months of November and January, the City of Santa Cruz and Ecology Action will conduct Walk and Bike Audits at the 10 schools. At these audits, teams will observe conditions during the morning drop-off and develop recommendations to improve walking, biking, metro and carpooling conditions for students around schools. The schedule for all 10 audits, information about the project, and all 10 school maps and a digital form for community feedback are available on our website at www.saferoutessantacruz.org. Please join us as we work together to create an important roadmap for building better and safer modes of travel for Santa Cruz City’s students.
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