Moving Forward on Safe Routes to School - It's Up to All of Us

Deb HubsmithSince Congress released their new MAP-21 Transportation Bill two weeks ago, which eliminated dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School and leaves most of the decision making for active transportation up to states and locals, people have been asking me “what’s next?”

The reality is -- “what’s next” is up to all of us. 

Here’s the good news. Everything that has been eligible for the past seven years for Safe Routes to School is still eligible under the new Transportation Alternatives program. However, we now have to compete for this funding with other projects and many decisions will be made at the state and local levels. This new system goes into effect on October 1; until then your state continues to receive funding for the current Safe Routes to School program.

This summer, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership will be working with our national partners to gather intelligence and strategize about how we can work together. We will release an action plan for advocates and policy makers with steps and advice on what you should do to:

-  Retain your SRTS DOT coordinator,

-  Convince your state not to waive half of its Transportation Alternatives money and to prioritize pedestrian and bicycle projects, including Safe Routes to School,

-  Position Safe Routes to School to compete well for the 50 percent of the Transportation Alternatives funding which will now be available at the local and regional levels,

-  Partner with your state DOT to spend down the existing SAFETEA-LU Safe Routes to School funds (see a list of the funds available in your state here), and

-  Lay the groundwork for us to change federal law again in two years to make the new transportation bill more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.

After licking my wounds on the loss at the federal level, I spent a couple of days in Sacramento last week asking questions about what our state will do to implement MAP-21. It turns out that California is going to draft implementation legislation for the federal transportation bill, so we have a chance in California to save dedicated funding for Safe Routes to School, Recreational Trails and Transportation Enhancements. I’m collaborating with the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and the California Bicycle Coalition already, and will be working to widen the collaborative circle in the near future to mount a campaign to save our programs at the state level. I’ll be sharing information with the field about these efforts, in hopes that they can be replicated in other states.

As we move forward into this new world, it’s up to all of us to be courageous and collaborative leaders at the local and state levels. The Safe Routes to School National Partnership’s free Annual Meeting on September 10 in Long Beach, California is focused on sustaining your Safe Routes to School program, so please plan to join us there if you can.

Let’s make history together, city by city and state by state to maximize on continuing to advance Safe Routes to School. I look forward to hearing about your strategies, challenges and successes, and to sharing the same so that we can create a structure to support all of our work. It’s up to all of us.