Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Releases Regional School Travel Data

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) released regional school travel data last week, after a request from the Safe Routes to School National Partnership was fielded for an analysis of the 2008-2009 Household Travel Survey.

The Household Travel Survey, conducted by the Transportation Planning Board of the Metropolitan Washington council of Governments collects information about daily trips from residents of the Washington region in order to assess regional travel demands, such as typical weekday travel behavior within the region. The 2008-2009 school travel data provided by MWCOG provides an excellent benchmark for measuring the success of the Safe Routes to School movement in the region, as it corresponds closely with the creation of the national Safe Routes to School program as well as a number of local advocacy movements.

A couple of quick highlights from MWCOG’s data:

Reported Usual Mode to Elementary School by Jurisdiction

Private Auto Transit Taxi/Limo Walk Bike School Bus
Alexandria 62.4% 6.1% 0.0% 21.6% 0.0% 9.9%
Arlington County 45.9% 0.0% 0.0% 19.7% 2.0% 32.5%
Charles County 31.2% 0.0% 0.0% 3.7% 0.0% 65.1%
District of Columbia 52.3% 6.2% 0.0% 27.6% 5.2% 8.6%
Fairfax County/Cities 33.2% 0.7% 0.0% 15.7% 0.7% 49.7%
Frederick County 43.5% 0.0% 0.0% 10.7% 0.0% 45.8%
Loudoun County 37.7% 0.0% 0.0% 8.5% 0.0% 53.9%
Montgomery County 50.4% 3.0% 0.0% 20.1% 0.0% 26.5%
Prince George’s County 46.3% 1.7% 0.0% 16.1% 0.0% 35.9%
Prince William County/Cities 30.4% 0.0% 0.0% 14.1% 0.0% 55.5%
Total 42.0% 1.7% 0.0% 16.5% 0.6% 39.2%

Reported Usual Mode to Middle School by Jurisdiction

Private Auto Transit Taxi/Limo Walk Bike School Bus
Alexandria 16.3% 8.1% 0.0% 37.1% 0.0% 38.5%
Arlington County 29.9% 4.4% 0.0% 24.3% 0.0% 41.4%
Charles County 30.4% 3.5% 0.0% 9.3% 0.0% 56.9%
District of Columbia 39.5% 13.5% 0.0% 22.0% 3.5% 21.6%
Fairfax County/Cities 16.4% 2.4% 0.0% 15.5% 1.0% 64.6%
Frederick County 28.1% 3.3% 0.0% 3.7% 2.3% 62.7%
Loudoun County 13.8% 0.0% 0.0% 12.1% 0.0% 74.1%
Montgomery County 23.8% 3.3% 0.0% 6.0% 0.7% 66.2%
Prince George’s County 35.6% 2.4% 0.0% 16.5% 0.0% 45.5%
Prince William County/Cities 12.2% 0.0% 0.0% 22.2% 0.0% 65.6%
Total 25.0% 3.7% 0.0% 14.3% 0.8% 56.1%

According to the data, more than 80 percent of elementary school children and nearly 85 percent of middle school children were transported by vehicle in 2008-2009. Specifically noted in MWCOG’s analysis, is that middle school students are more than 15 percent more likely to be transported by bus than elementary school students, likely due to school placement for older students.

While only 1.2 percent of all elementary and middle school students report bicycling to and from school, it is worth repeating that this data represents numbers just after the creation of the national Safe Routes to School program and predates many local advocacy efforts. The true test of the program’s success will come when we measure the increase in walking and bicycling in the most recent Household Travel Survey.

Where do we go from here with this information? As previously noted, it provides us with a strong benchmark for measuring regional success moving forward. In the near term, we can use this information to prioritize our efforts regionally, as we now have a clearer picture of where opportunities for change exist. Furthermore, the degree to which children are driven or bussed to school in the region lends strong evidence to the argument that school travel is a major contributor to rush hour traffic and air quality impacts. We will work with MWCOG to further measure those impacts, providing us with a strong new tool in the region to advocate for increased walking and bicycling among elementary and middle school children.

We are grateful for the hard work staff at MWCOG invested into compiling and analyzing this data.

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