Contextualizing School Commutes – Multilevel Modeling for Evaluation of Safe Routes to School Effectiveness
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
To help address this gap, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (Metro Boston's regional planning agency) developed a new survey tool and evaluation method which have been adopted by MassRIDES, the state's SRTS agency. A spatially detailed six-question survey tool has been used to collect responses from over 25,000 students and their parents in over 125 Massachusetts schools since 2014. An online web interface provides school administrators and program coordinators with the ability to manage survey activities and produce automated reports with key results. MAPC also developed a multilevel model to investigate the effects of route, neighborhood, and school characteristics on walking to school. As expected, the model results indicate that the age of students, the distance to school, and the characteristics of the built environment affect the odds of walking to school. More importantly, the multilevel model provides a framework for examining between-school differences in walk-to-school rates while controlling for student body characteristics, assignment policies, and built environment factors. As a result, we can produce valid comparisons of mode share across heterogeneous schools and to contextualize schools' baseline walk share, set appropriate and measurable mode shift goals, and track progress over time. Repeat surveys at multiple schools can be used to evaluate what intervention strategies yield the greatest mode shift and to focus resources accordingly.