Safe Routes National Partnership recently released two reports which provide summaries and comparisons of Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs across the country, and show that New Jersey’s program ranks among the best of all state programs.
The Safe Routes to School Program Census Project: 2019 National Program Assessment Report offers an overview of the state of SRTS programming on both the state and local levels. The report includes a survey of SRTS programs from around the country and highlights strengths, challenges, and opportunities in an effort to better inform future program support. Some programs included in the report focus on a single school while other programs, such as New Jersey’s, take a statewide approach.
In its discussion of statewide programs, the 2019 National Program Assessment Report considers four topic areas: policy, planning, and design; active transportation funding; SRTS supportive practices; and school siting and design. New Jersey fared well among all state programs, ranking highly in each of these categories. The report identifies the establishment of state policy related to SRTS, such as Complete Streets or Active Transportation, as crucial to creating an environment that is safe and supportive for students walking and bicycling to school. New Jersey is one of only nine states that provides two or more clear actionable steps to support implementation of a Complete Streets policy. In terms of active transportation, New Jersey provides funding for non-infrastructure projects and gives special consideration to SRTS projects for funding. New Jersey is also one of 16 states that provides special consideration for high-need communities and one of six states that provide matching funds for high-need communities. Additionally, New Jersey has no minimum acreage requirement that would increase the difficulty of siting new schools near students’ homes. The state also provides some support for walking, bicycling, and physical activity in school siting and design guidelines.
The second report, Making Strides: 2018 State Report Cards on Support for Walking, Bicycling, and Active Kids and Communities, provides a state-by-state ranking of SRTS programs that scores states in four categories: Complete Streets and active transportation; SRTS and active transportation funding; active neighborhoods and schools; and physical activity. In 2018, New Jersey ranked among the top 10 states for Complete Streets and Active Transportation. Key elements for this category include support for a Complete Streets policy, design for active transportation, active transportation planning, and active transportation goals. New Jersey ranks among the top 16 states for Safe Routes to School and active transportation funding, with programs that improve infrastructure near schools and provide funding for non-infrastructure programming. For the active neighborhoods and schools category, which considers how states support the creation of neighborhoods and schools that encourage physical activity, New Jersey ranks second. While New Jersey scores roughly average for physical activity planning and support, when all four scores are combined, New Jersey ranks seventh overall.
Both the 2019 National Program Assessment Report and the 2018 State Report Cards highlight the strengths of the New Jersey Safe Routes to School program, especially in comparison with other state programs across the country.