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Students cross a street in Santa Rosa.

Programs Encourage Sonoma County High School Students to Ditch Car Commutes

Nov 27, 2018

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Efforts to shift school commutes away from single-rider trips to more sustainable modes of transportation, such as walking, bicycling, carpooling, and public transit are making a difference at 12 Sonoma County high schools.

“Since September 2017 the Safe Routes to School pilot program has seen measurable increases in active and alternative forms of transportation among students at participating high schools,” said Kelly Elder, Public Health Division manager at the Sonoma County Department of Health Services (DHS).

The two-year pilot program is coordinated by DHS and funded by the Caltrans’ Active Transportation Program, aims to increase physical activity among high school students and decrease greenhouse gas emissions related to vehicle trips.

The Department collaborated with the Center for Climate Protection to implement youth leadership trainings at 12 local high schools, while W-Trans, a traffic-engineering consultant, received funding to assess walking and biking infrastructure around the schools.

“Our team has gathered information on walking and bicycling to and from school, and we led walking audits in the spring to identify critical pedestrian and bike safety issues,” said Principal, W-Trans, Steve Weinberger.

Students ride through downtown Santa Rosa.

In May 2018, assessments conducted in neighborhoods near each school resulted in draft recommendations for infrastructure improvements to be shared and discussed at school sponsored community meetings between September and December 2018.

The project supported walking audits at all 12 participating high schools, to identify concerns for pedestrians and bicyclists related to the safety, access, comfort, and convenience of the environment and propose infrastructure improvements to address them.

Families are invited to attend these community meetings in order to prioritize recommended transportation infrastructure improvements and provide feedback on routes to school.

“We are looking for input from the public on our recommendations for modifications and enhancements to transportation facilities, or to tell us if we have missed anything. Public input is an essential part of planning for infrastructure improvements in our communities,” Weinberger said.

After these community meetings, students from each high school will also be presenting policy and/or infrastructure proposals to their local school boards or administrations in spring 2019.

Participating Schools:

Forestville: El Molino High School

Healdsburg: Healdsburg High School

Petaluma: Casa Grande and Petaluma High Schools

Rohnert Park: Credo High School

Santa Rosa: Maria Carrillo, Montgomery, Piner, Roseland University Prep, and Santa Rosa High Schools

Sebastopol: Analy High School

Windsor: Windsor High School

For more information about the meetings, please contact Amy Jolly at the Center for Climate Protection at (707) 525-1665 x119, or visitwww.eco2school.org.

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