Safe Routes to Schools Intersectional Analysis

Between 1969 and 2001, the nationwide share of children commuting to school by active modes decreased from 41 percent to 13 percent (McDonald 2007), and by 2009 (the year of the most recent National Household Travel Survey), the share of children commuting to school or church by private automobile was over 70 percent (Santos et al. 2011). These national averages mask wide geographic variations in mode shares for the journey to school. For example, the research needs statement for this project indicates that walking and bicycling rates of school children in Palo Alto are 45-50 percent, while just 15 miles south of San Jose, these rates are only 2 percent. 

Safe Routes to School programs represent an attempt to slow or reverse the trend towards increasing reliance on automobiles among school children by facilitating and encouraging travel by active modes. Such programs have the potential to impact travel behavior beyond the school years. Smart and Klein (2018) have shown that early exposure to alternative transportation modes increases the likelihood of using alternative modes later in life. Moreover, active travel modes for the commute to school are associated with increases in overall physical activity (Faulkner et al. 2009; Cooper et al. 2005), which is associated in turn with better cardiovascular health (Janz, Dawson, and Mahoney 2002), reduced risk for obesity (McCambridge et al. 2006), and even improved academic performance (Dwyer et al. 2001). 

However, in order for Safe Routes to School programs to achieve these myriad benefits, a better understanding of factors contributing to the success (or failure) of these programs is required. In the absence of available research on the types of programs and institutional structures that are effective at creating lasting behavior change, the stated goal of causing children (and their parents) to replace car trips with active travel for the commute to school may not be consistently realized. 

The purpose of this project is to develop measures of effectiveness for Safe Routes to Schools (SRTS) programs and identify program characteristics and institutional structures that are associated with successful outcomes. We will also identify how well existing funding allocations among SRTS programs align with community needs and likelihood of success. 


Mineta Consortium for Transportation Mobility
San José State University

Principal Investigator: 

Carole Voulgaris, Ph.D. & Anurag Pande, Ph.D.

PI Contact Information: 

Mineta Transportation Institute
San José State University
210 N. 4th St., 4th Floor
San Jose, CA 95112

Funding Source(s) and Amounts Provided (by each agency or organization): 

U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology – $74,429

Total Project Cost: 


Agency ID or Contract Number: 



November 2018 to July 2020

Project Number: