Waimea, Hawaii: PATH paves a way for SRTS activities in Hawaii

Introduction

Since 1999, Peoples Advocacy for Trails Hawaii (PATH) has been the lead agency in the state of Hawaii for Safe Routes to School (SRTS) programs. The group works to connect residents of the Hawaii Islands to pedestrian and bicycle routes. PATH believes that engineering improvements are an important component in creating a successful SRTS program. Currently, PATH is working with Waimea, Waikoloa and Kahakai Elementary Schools.

Activities

PATH has focused on applying to the Hawaii Department of Transportation (HDOT) for federal SRTS funds to build or improve the infrastructure in the communities and educate and encourage safer travel to school. Recently, PATH applied for $34,000 in SRTS federal funds for education and encouragement activities at numerous schools on the island of Hawaii.

In 2006, PATH began working with Waimea Elementary School, a pre-kindergarten through fifth grade school in the village of Waimea, with the goal of increasing the safety for all modes of transportation to school — walking, bicycling, driving and busing. The community of Waimea has a traffic circulation plan that includes efforts to make the town more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly. The SRTS stakeholder group, comprised of PATH members, school staff and community members, works together to ensure SRTS principles are incorporated into the circulation plan once it is implemented. PATH has applied to the HDOT for $250,000 in SRTS federal funds, which will go toward constructing sidewalks within the school campus.

Only 12 percent of Waimea Elementary students live within one mile of the school, which makes it difficult to encourage students to walk to school. PATH first will focus on improving the safety of all modes of transportation, including cars dropping children off, so there is predictable, safe vehicular traffic amongst kids walking and bicycling to school. As part of this SRTS strategy, a mini-walking school bus will be launched in which children walk together from the drop-off point on school property to the classroom. By creating mini-walking school buses, PATH raises pedestrian safety awareness for the students and reassures parents that their children will arrive safely to school. Eventually, PATH wants to host a Walk to School Day at Waimea Elementary.

Waikoloa Elementary School, which has grades pre-kindergarten through fifth, is in Waikiloa Village, a newer community with more sidewalks and better traffic circulation than most of the other communities on the Hawaii Island. With almost 60 percent of Waikoloa Elementary students living within one mile of the school, there is great potential for the students to walk and bicycle to school. In September 2007, PATH received funds from the Hawaii Department of Health to create and promote a walking school bus program. Staff from PATH, the health department and members of the Parent Teacher Student Association have worked together to identify the potential walking school bus route to school and to recruit parents to serve as “drivers” for the bus.

PATH also has worked with Kahakai Elementary School in Kahakai for nearly a decade to create pedestrian and bicycle-friendly routes. PATH has applied to HDOT for $230,000 in federal SRTS funds to install a concrete path linking the school to the community. Some of Kahakai’s students use an informal path across Case Study from a vacant lot to access the school. Community members organized a clean-up of the lot to ensure the safety of the children using it to walk to class. Now that so many students use the lot, PATH members plan to contact the lot’s owners to propose developing the pathway specifically for the students.

Milestones

Kahakai has seen a 51 percent increase in students walking to school, and an increase from no students bicycling to school on a regular basis to more than 10 students bicycling to school. These results can be attributed to the cleanup of the paths around school’s campus and the increased support of parents in helping their children walk to school. PATH expects to hear from HDOT in February 2008 regarding the SRTS federal funds. If awarded, PATH can begin its infrastructure projects at Waimea and Kahakai Elementary Schools. Waikoloa Elementary has planned a test run of its Walking School Bus program, as well as an orientation for parents and drivers at the beginning of March 2008.

Contact

Laura Dierenfield
PATH Peoples Advocacy for Trails Hawaii
PO Box 62 Kailua-Kona, Hawaii 96745
Email: lmd@hawaii.rr.com
Phone: 808-936-4653