Getting There Together: A Message from the Director

So much has happened since our last Safe Routes Matters.  So many important decisions, events and announcements that will help to move forward the idea behind Safe Routes to School.  Starting with International Walk to School Day, the lucky seventh since the National Center was formed.  Once again the country set a new record for the number of registered events—4,250 to date, with one week of reporting to go.  All of you reading this had something to do with making that happen, so a big congratulations to you.

The growing popularity of Walk to School Day gives me great hope looking forward.  Of course, after any event we have to assess—look at what went well, where we can improve, and begin thinking about next year’s event.  Our Q&A with Don Cross of Phoenix, who coordinates 30-40 Walk events each year, should give you some inspiration.

Speaking of next year, all of us who support Safe Routes to School are still waiting to find out what MAP-21 means to us.  A starting point comes in the Interim Guidance released by FHWA this week.  I know that State Safe Routes Coordinators are ready to move forward with this Guidance.  For those who haven’t seen it yet, some of the key items include that State Safe Routes Coordinators can continue to be covered, that Safe Routes programs still can do education and enforcement, and a new requirement for an 80/20 match.  You can read the Transportation Alternatives Interim Guidance on the FHWA website at www.fhwa.dot.gov/map21/guidance/guidetap.cfm.

We’ve already sent announcements about several recent positive directions, but they bear a quick recap here.  First, at the end of August we announced that the 2013 Safe Routes to School National Conference will be held in Sacramento, Calif., from August 13-15.

In September, the National Center was honored with a Harvard Bright Ideas in Government award for our efforts to engage communities in school travel data collection and, in turn, to make program decisions based on this collected information.  Coincidentally, we also announced in September expanded reporting capabilities from our data system which will allow communities to track changes in school transportation patterns.

And in October we’ve released two new resources:  a set of SRTS briefing sheets for transportation engineers and planners that we developed with the Institute of Transportation Engineers, and a look at methods for understanding the environmental health impacts of SRTS programs.

Each of these elements moves our mission forward and we hope that they will enrich the work you do in all 50 states and thousands of communities across the country to ensure Safe Routes to School for our children.  Safe Routes can—and does—play an important role in building communities, and I’m thrilled to share stories here from a tiny salmon fishing village in Alaska and the state capital of Vermont that show this role.  I hope these stories inspire you, as they’ve inspired me, to keep the idea of Safe Routes moving forward.

Lauren Marchetti
Director
National Center for Safe Routes to School