“Safe Routes” Expands to Schoolbus Stops: Passage of AB 1915
October 24, 2012 Leave a comment
This past year, the California legislature passed AB 1915 (Alejo) that enables Safe Routes to School federal and state grants to improve infrastructure to schoolbus stops outside the vicinity of schools. AB 1915 provides that up to 10% of program funds may be used to assist eligible recipients in making infrastructure improvements, other than schoolbus shelters that create Safe Routes to schoolbus stops not without requiring that the stop be located near a school.
Before AB 1915 was passed, infrastructure improvements to schoolbus stops were not specifically eligible and not a well-defined use of Safe Route to School funds. The ambiguous eligibility created an obstacle for communities with children that traveled longer distances to schools and relied on school buses. More often rural, suburban and unincorporated areas did not have neighborhood-based schools and fewer opportunities for children to walk and bicycle safely to schools. Compounding the issue, these areas may generally lack public transportation options for both adults and children. Because AB 1915 highlights schoolbus stops in the Safe Routes to School application process, these communities are finally provided an opportunity to address their special needs.
Health and quality of life disparities between urban and rural children will continue to be eased by expanding the geographical application of Safe Routes to School funds. According to the 2007 National Survey of Children’s Health, 30% of children in urban areas were obese or overweight versus 42% in rural areas. More flexibility in using Safe Routes to School grants leverages applicants’ unique characteristics and broadens the applicant pool to include those that have not applied in the past. The inclusivity of this new legislation enhances and reinforces equity goals of the Safe Routes to School regional networks in California and other active transportation advocates. Additionally, AB 1915 has the potential to increase programs and infrastructure improvements oriented to pedestrian and bicyclist safety in more underserved areas of California.