Safe Routes to School Regional Plan – San Diego County

Why?  “A regional strategy will ensure that the tools provided are germane and that resources are focused in areas across the region with the greatest need for assistance.”

Porter Elementary, San Diego Photo Credit: Safe Routes to School National Partnership

In March 2012, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) adopted a Regional Safe Routes to School Strategic Plan. Now the Transportation Agency is working to implement, in partnership with stakeholders throughout the County, this important plan to enhance and build upon the region’s existing efforts.

Now that the Strategic Plan has been adopted, the recommendations will be prioritized.  The plan calls for a phasing and financing strategy to be developed and a needs analysis to define areas that will receive priority for some of the resources recommended in the strategy

SANDAG began developing the Strategic Plan in September 2010 with funding through the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA) Healthy Works program.

The Plan is organized around three focal points:

  • Existing Issues and Opportunities
  • Existing Safe Routes to School Efforts
  • Moving Forward – a Regional Safe Routes to School Strategy

And maps several informative regional data sets:

  • Schools Impacted by Safe Routes to School Grants
  • Schools Impacted by Healthy Works Safe Routes to School Grants
  • San Diego Region Schools and School Districts and Youth Population Density
  • Percentage of Roadways with Sidewalks and Existing Bike Facilities
  • Pedestrian and Bike Collision Rates

In the 16 Cities and 3 million plus residents that make up San Diego County, there are over 1,000 public (761) and private (251) schools comprising over half a million students.  Throughout the County there has been over $18M in state Safe Routes to School funds awarded and $6.6M in federal funds. The Regional SRTS Strategic plan describes how some of these funds have been put to use in the region.

“Some of the region’s most exemplary ‘complete streets’ are a result of Safe Routes to School infrastructure projects, exhibiting a mix of traffic calming measures, road diet, pedestrian and bicycle facilities, and amenities. The County of San Diego and cities of National City, Chula Vista, Lemon Grove, San Diego, and Encinitas have all completed Safe Routes to School projects featuring traffic calming elements. For example, the City of Encinitas used a federal Safe Routes to School grant to fund first phase implementation of a neighborhood traffic calming project surrounding Cardiff Elementary School, and the City of National City received a state grant to improve access to Central Elementary School with a road diet, traffic calming, and amenities along East 8th Street. In San Diego, the City Heights neighborhood Urban Village is a mixed-use public space that provides recreational and educational opportunities to adults and youths including enhanced pedestrian access to Rosa Parks Elementary School.”

Community activists, and volunteers meet with City of Chula Vista leaders at city hall to discuss how to increase and improve public space for exercise. Photo Credit: HEACphotos on flickr

Investing $160,000, which results in $2.5M in Federal Transportation Funds: While developing the Regional SRTS Strategic Plan,  another component of SANDAG’s work was their Healthy Works Safe Routes to School initiative, which involved developing and administering two pass-through grant programs:

  • Safe Routes to School Capacity Building and Planning Grant Program, and
  • Safe Routes to School Education, Encouragement, and Enforcement Grant Program.

Notably, Five Healthy Works grantees, who were awarded a combined $160,000,  leveraged those dollars to secure nearly $2.5 million in federal Safe Routes to School grant funds through the program’s third application cycle.

The Strategic Plan, provides critical baseline data and information, and identifies a strategies to take that information, and work with sustaining and enhancing existing SRTS efforts throughout the County by prioritizing SANDAG’s contributions around these 4 major themes:

  • Regional Planning and Evaluation (data standards and analysis, evaluation & action plan)
  • Technical Assistance (Training topics may include: best practices in SRTS/SR2S Applications, addressing liability issues, local and school district policy development, prioritizing investments, crime prevention by design, school-siting and design issues, and obligating funds in a timely manner).
  • Collaboration and Coordination ( i.e. participation in County SRTS Coalition, and coordinating access to resources and information to support expanding  program activities in the San Diego region.)
  • Education and Encouragement (Raising awareness through public outreach efforts and regional campaigns can increase school and parent participation in Safe Routes to School initiatives.)

Implementation and Next Steps: Now that the Strategic Plan has been adopted, the recommendations will be prioritized.  The plan calls for a phasing and financing strategy to be developed and incorporated into an Active Transportation Early Action Program and well as a needs analysis to define areas that will receive priority for some of the resources recommended in the strategy. This analysis will consider demographic and land use patterns with emphasis on safety, health impacts and social equity considerations.

In future years, this assessment will be addressed within Evaluation and Action Plans (p. 53) that will provide recommendations based on analysis of data and public input collected through the ongoing Safe Routes to School Data Collection and Evaluation program (p. 53 – 55). This approach allows the strategy to evolve and respond to the changing needs of the regions’ local communities and schools.

Interested and want to learn more?  Join the San Diego County Safe Routes to School Coalition: The next meeting is on Tuesday, May 8th from 3pm to 4:30pm at Caltrans, District 11,  Old Town, 4050 Taylor Street, San Diego, CA 92110 in the Wallace Conference Room 1-119.  Contact Kristin Haukom to find out more at Kristin.Haukom@cdph.ca.gov

To find out more about SANDAG’s Regional Safe Routes to School Plan and its implementation please email Associate Regional Planner Bridget Enderele at ben@sandag.ca.gov.  All partners are grateful for the funding from the  Center for Disease Control and Prevention, through the County of San Diego that made the SANDAG Safe Routes to School Strategic Plan feasible.

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