Alta is leading the MnDOT Safe Routes to School (SRTS) Planning Assistance Projects, assisting over 100 schools in the state with plans that address both engineering and program improvements. The primary goal of the planning assistance projects is to create actionable, prioritized SRTS plans that guide Minnesota communities in implementing infrastructure and programs to help more children walk and bicycle to school safely.
The SRTS plans include a robust assessment of existing infrastructure and non-infrastructure barriers and opportunities for each participating school site. Planning is completed in close coordination with school based teams to support a clear path to implementation. With increased focus on equitable delivery of programs and infrastructure, Alta prioritized engagement with students in order to give the school more ownership of the walking and biking programs in their community. Where parent engagement was lower, Alta created an online survey in Somali, in order to better engage non-English speaking families.
Building the capacity of the local school team to sustain a safe routes program is another key goal of the planning assistance. One of the hallmarks of Alta’s SRTS work is the Rapid Planning Workshop. Similar to a planning charrette, this day-long workshop brings together key stakeholders and school community members to identify barriers to walking and biking to school and brainstorm potential opportunities and solutions. This group of stakeholders maintains a close working relationship throughout the school year and becomes the core group for what leads to a sustainable safe routes program in the community. The group creates well-implemented programs that increase the local capacity and can have an equal or greater effect on student walking and bicycling rates compared to infrastructure improvements.
Alta was selected for the original contract for 2012 and has worked on every proceeding contract since. Alta staff genuinely enjoy working with students, families, and the school community. In previous years, Alta found bike part donors and organized a fix up of 24 unused bicycles in a Saint Paul Public School middle school. The bikes are now available to the school to be used in physical education and after school. Alta also helped organize and lead the first ever Saint Paul Public School bike train, which continues to be held after plan and project completion.