Schools on Safe Routes

The Safe Routes to School program is one of my favorites from the Obama era, but this is a good point from Charles Marohn:

Where my concern lies is not in the goal but in our approach to meeting it. Today we spend money to study and then, in some cases, to retrofit existing school zones to accommodate bikers and walkers. There is an entire pyramid of bureaucracy set up around implementing the program, from actual government employees down through a chain of consultants and local implementation managers. I’ve interacted with all layers of this system in all manner of community and one thing has struck me as notable: I’ve never seen one of these people involved when a new school location is being determined […] We spend tens of millions each year (a ridiculously small sum given the size of the task) in an attempt to retrofit schools to be walkable. Would it not be far more effective to simply locate new schools in areas that are already “safe”? Of course it would be, so why is nobody advocating for this?

The big issue here is parking. Many municipalities require schools to provide enough parking spaces to accommodate all staff members and 12th graders, and many don’t charge for parking permits, or only charge a negligible sum. The requirement that schools provide a huge free surface parking lot precludes more schools from being built in denser walkable areas that neighborhood kids can walk or bike to, and forces districts to locate them in places that are more convenient for hundreds of people to reach by car.


  1. walking,bikes=good, driving cars=bad, at least in the minds of the elites who should be making our lifestyle decisions for us

    • Jon Geeting says:

      The choice to force schools to provide “free” parking is also made by elites. There are no neutral choices in land use.

      Who could deny that it would be better if kids could get to school without having to get in a car or bus? That’s less time parents have to spend in the morning, less money school district taxpayers have to spend on buses, etc.

  2. I’ll use East Penn and Parkland as examples – East Penn has 10 schools, only 1 high school where kids drive. Parkland has 11, only 1 high school. So your comment on seniors driving is immaterial in the overall scheme, it’s teacher/administrator parking that is the issue.

    As to cost the cost of allowing free parking for teachers/administrators, this cost is simply hidden income for their benefit. If we tried to charge them to park, invariably the next contract would include reimbursement to the teachers for the cost of parking. Either way the taxpayer takes it in the shorts, but the first way is less expensive than actually funneling all these $$ around.

    What I see here is a consultant whining that he should be getting more contracts and sucking more money out than he already is. Too bad so sad.

  3. Jon Geeting says:

    I disagree. I don’t want to reimburse teachers for the cost of parking. Driving is their choice. They could choose to take public transportation, or live closer to school and walk or bike. The idea that people “have” to drive to school is leading to an inefficient allocation of school district land assets. The cost should be in everyone’s faces, not hidden.

    • You do realize it’s the Democratic party that will prevent your idea from ever seeing the light of day? Teachers Unions work local Dem politicians like hand puppets.

      • Jon Geeting says:

        No argument there. I wish that there was a Republican Party worth supporting at the local level, that took its rhetoric about free markets, property rights, and the evils of hidden taxes seriously.

  4. I agree, and I wish you good luck fighting that one.

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