In general, the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program focuses on getting children to walk or bike to school when possible. In many schools, a high percentage of the children who are driven to school live close enough to the school to walk or bike. By getting these children to travel to school by walking or biking, the SRTS campaign aims to lessen congestion problems and dangerous walking conditions around school. It also addresses the problems of the rising rates of childhood obesity and diabetes by getting kids to be more active in their daily lives. For the middle schoolers I surveyed, the idea of a “walking school bus” is less cool than a “WalkPool,” hence my use of the latter term.
The WalkPool routes I designed for children living with a half mile of John Adams Middle School are designed to pull the low fruit from the tree: they address those children for whom switching from driving to walking or biking would present the smallest challenge. Of the children whose homes are mapped with red house icons, only a handful walk. The rest are driven by their parents, either because they are consistently “running late” in the morning or because the parents are anxious about their children walking alone to school. Many parents also drop their children in “chained trips” on their way to work, and see the morning drive as a time to check in with kids before the school day starts. Regardless of the reason, so many vehicles arriving at the three entry points within ten minutes of each other creates havoc around the school every morning. Getting the local kids out of their cars and onto WalkPools or BikePools would have an enormous positive effect on both safety in the school’s immediate vicinity and the health of the children. However there are many children at JAMS who come from outside the district and live too far for either walking or biking: some children drive as long as an hour to get to school in the morning.
For this week’s assignment I addressed the issue of “permit students” by trying to identify feasible public transportation options for these students to get to school. Unfortunately, LA Metro’s only bus lines that come into Santa Monica do not have routes near the school, and Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus line is not coordinated with LA Metro’s API for bus route information. Therefore I decided to map all bus lines within Metro’s system, with the goal of trimming the map to those that come closest to the walking buffer for next week. While it seems unlikely that a middle-schooler would take an LA bus and then walk up to 1/2 mile to get to school, it’s helpful to see how challenging our city-centric bus systems can be for those who want to travel between cities like Los Angeles and Santa Monica.
My daughter’s best friend lives at Hoover and Olympic, and I was trying to map how he could use public transit to get to school. He could do it, but it would take two bus rides and 90 minutes. It would be more likely that his parents would be willing to drop him along the WalkPool route, since walking to school is seen as cool by middle schoolers.