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Posts from the "Schools" Category

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House GOP Urges Elimination of (GOP-Backed) Kid Safety Program

House Republicans aren't known for their well-reasoned spending proposals lately, but they took it to a new level today by sending President Obama a $375 billion budget-cutting plan that slices $1 billion from bicycle and pedestrian programs.

crosswalkphoto.jpgOne hopes that crossing guard in orange isn't a House GOPer. (Photo: CA DOT)

The cuts have next to no chance of moving forward, given that Republicans are out of power in the White House and Congress. But they amount to the next step in the GOP's political rebuilding process. Which begs the question: Does the party really want to stake its future on cutting Safe Routes to School?

The House GOP plan suggests that Obama save $183 million per year by eliminating federal participation in the program, which just last month was strongly endorsed for re-authorization by two Republican senators.

House Republicans argue that helping children walk or bike to school has "traditionally been viewed as" the task of local governments. Presumably, dedicated federal funding for kids' safety amounts to creeping Big Government for the GOP -- but dedicated federal funding for kids' health care, now that's just fine.

Other transportation proposals on the Republican chopping block today were the $25 million in bike and pedestrian funding given to four communities in the 2005 transportation bill and the U.S. DOT's Transportation Enhancements initiative, which currently costs $833 million annually.

Margo Pedroso, deputy director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, was unruffled by the House GOP proposal (which took the form of a letter to Obama rather than a bill):

Given the impact that Safe Routes to School initiatives can have on children’s physical activity levels, traffic safety and congestion, air quality around schools, and school budgets, we are confident that Safe Routes to School has bipartisan support in Congress.

Late Update: Despite the House GOP's proposal, Republican Sen. Richard Burr (NC) is not budging from his support for expanding the federal Safe Routes program. Burr said through a spokeswoman that

 

I would certainly be disappointed in funding cuts for this program, as I am seeking to increase funds within the Safe Routes to School Program Reauthorizations Act.  This program is beneficial for all Americans because it promotes activity and helps ensure children are able to get to school safely. In North Carolina, this program builds safe routes across the state, and I’m confident the program will do just as much good across the country.
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Cartoon Tuesday: Back to School

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With rising gas prices crippling school bus fleets across the U.S., Clarion-Ledger editorial cartoonist Marshall Ramsay offers an intriguing new school transportation idea. Click through to see it.

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Going Back-to-School in the Age of the $4 Gallon

Today is the first day of class for New York City public school students, while other districts across the country have been in session for weeks. The Times reports that some are grappling with how to get kids to and from school in the 298194903_97e86c863f.jpgface of $4-per-gallon gasoline.

Schools in many states have cut bus stops to save diesel. Districts in California and Ohio have gone further and eliminated bus service either completely or for high schools, leaving thousands of students to find their own way to school.

West Virginia officials issued a memorandum recently to local districts titled “Tips to Deal With the Skyrocketing Cost of Fuel.” Last week, David Pauley, the transportation supervisor for the Kanawha County school system, based in Charleston, met with drivers of the district’s 196 buses to outline those policies. Mr. Pauley told them to stay 5 miles per hour below the limit, to check the tire pressure every day and to avoid jackrabbit starts.

The Caldwell Parish School District, in northern Louisiana, took a more sweeping approach to saving fuel by eliminating Monday classes. The district joined about 100 systems nationwide, most of them rural, that in recent years have adopted a four-day schedule.

Simple fuel-saving measures that should be commonplace notwithstanding, the severe impact of gas prices on education has some wondering if schools ought to be in the transportation business in the first place. At the same time, though, the Federal Transit Administration is moving to curtail public transportation for students.

When all is said and done, might higher gas prices finally return us to such "innovative" solutions as walking, biking and car-pooling to school? It's happening already in some areas, with or without administrative support.

Photo: Brad Aaron

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Alabama Students Walk to School to Protest Gas Prices

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On their way to class, Brooks High students brave the shoulder along route 72.

Perhaps taking a page from their peers in New Jersey, students at Brooks High in Florence, Alabama are ditching their cars in favor of walking to school. The Times Daily of northwest Alabama reports:

Students began wondering how much they could change gas prices by getting the whole student body to walk to school. Without involving the school or the administration, approximately 50 classmates were recruited during a meeting last week. The students drew maps and planned for two groups to walk from Killen and Center Star to school.

The students have been walking to school all week. There is much to commend here: The civic-mindedness, the willingness to walk a not-insignificant distance (along a route so hazardous that cops have to check in on them), and the tacit understanding that reducing VMT can reduce dependence on gas. The students even had to work around parade rules that could have put a crimp in their protest plans. And the organizers anticipate that high gas prices are not going away anytime soon:

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Call for Ped Safety Measures on Third and Fourth Avenues

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A third-grader was hit on her way to school here two weeks ago.

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You have to move fast to beat the turning traffic on Fourth Avenue.

DOT Deputy Commissioner for Brooklyn Dalila Hall faced some tough questioning from members of the public at a meeting on pedestrian safety on Third and Fourth avenues in Brooklyn on Saturday.

"Why should we have to run across the street?" demanded Melissa Torres, whose daughter attends PS 24 in Sunset Park, near the busy intersection of 38th St. and 4th Ave.

Sometimes running isn't enough. A third-grader was hit by a car two weeks ago as she crossed at the spot, where vehicles roar down a ramp off the Gowanus Expressway and make a left turn right into a crosswalk on Fourth Avenue.

That girl survived the crash, but Third and Fourth avenues have been fatally dangerous streets for many children -- like six-year-old Andry Vega, who was run over at the corner of Third Ave. and 46th St. last December, and four-year-old James Rice, who was struck and killed at the corner of Third Ave. and Baltic St. in February.

They were just two of the fatalities that showed up as blue crosses on the map of the Third and Fourth avenue corridor at the back of the auditorium -- interspersed with many, many red circles indicating crashes that resulted in pedestrian injuries.

The meeting, organized by the Community Education Council for District 15, was designed to give the public a chance to voice their concerns directly to DOT officials and to police. And the parents, teachers and students who attended made the most of it, requesting traffic-calming measures and better enforcement for specific intersections, like the one at 38th and Fourth.

According to Transportation Alternatives' Brooke DuBose, who made a presentation at the meeting, several residents marked trouble spots on the map, and representatives from Community Board 7 and the offices of various elected officials expressed interest in following up the meeting with further workshop and planning opportunities.

Representatives of the 72nd and 78th precincts, which cover the area, said that truck enforcement is a priority. In the 72nd, according to Sgt. Alfredo Rosario, summonses for trucks are up 50 percent over this time last year. He welcomed the input from the community on specific dangerous intersections. "It's actually very helpful to us," he said after the meeting.

Several of those present wanted more immediate action from the DOT to make crosswalks safer. "When a kid gets killed here, god forbid, then they'll do something," said Raymond Mercado, who lives around the corner from PS 24 and has two children in the school. He said he constantly sees near-misses as kids travel on the traffic-filled streets.

He and others wondered if the DOT needed to study the situation.

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Streetfilms: Little Legs for Green Streets

Little Legs For Green Streets
A StreetFilm by Clarence Eckerson Jr.
Running Time: 2 minutes 41 seconds

This Streetfilm celebrates the students at P.S. 321 in Park Slope who are going green. The entire school participated in an Earth Day walk-a-thon to raise money for Transportation Alternatives, Amazon Watch, and Added Value.
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Safe Routes to Schools Study Complete

Walking to school is a healthy way for many kids to get their daily dose of exercise. Unfortunately many parents are rightfully concerned about their children's safety on the city's streets because of aggressive driver and lack of good pedestrian safety infrastructure. Everyday in front of many city schools you see parents dropping kids off in front of schools even though most live well within walking distance.

In 2004 the DOT began what turned into a 2 year study of Well, the study is now complete and they are planning to implement the changes in late 2007. The study has confirmed that many additional safety improvements are needs near schools to make them safer for kids to walk to school.

From a press release issued by the Mayor's Office:

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today joined Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Iris Weinshall and Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein to announce the completion and release of  "Traffic Safety Maps" for each of the city's 1,471 elementary and middle schools following an examination of accident histories around each school, as well as upgraded school crosswalk signs at each school, and comprehensive traffic safety reports for 135 priority schools located around the city.   The maps, which identify traffic signals, all-way stop signs, speed bumps, and crosswalks maps, are designed to help students and parents find the safest routes to and from school.  DOT will soon begin distributing these maps to schools, and they will also be online at DOT's web site starting next month.  Mayor Bloomberg also announced that DOT has already begun to implement the safety enhancements recommended in the traffic safety reports for the 135 priority schools, and that the City plans detailed studies for 135 additional public, private and parochial elementary and middle schools. DOT will also begin a similar program for 40 high schools in late 2007. Mayor Bloomberg made today's announcement at P.S. 21 in the Williamsbridge section of the Bronx .

We'll have more on the specifics later in the day.