The SFUSD encourages families to travel to school via alternatives, like biking, and plans to provide storage on campuses. (mike koozmin/s.f. examiner)

SFUSD looks to encourage sustainable transportation for students

The San Francisco Unified School District is looking to make it easier for students to walk, bicycle or ride public transportation to school in the coming years.

Board of Education Vice President Matt Haney introduced a resolution at the board meeting Tuesday night that calls for the district to develop a long-term plan to encourage students and families to find ways of getting to and from school other than driving, the transportation method preferred by nearly half the students in the SFUSD.

In fact, a survey by the district found that 45 percent of trips students take to school are made by single-family vehicle, according to Haney. That’s partly because the district has seen a reduction in the number of school buses that transport students in recent years — currently, less than half of the SFUSD’s 56,000 students ride a school bus each day.

But there are also challenges that prevent some students from riding a bike or taking Muni to school, Haney added.

“We don’t have many school buses anymore, so families are left on their own to figure out how to get to school,” Haney said. “We know that it can be a huge challenge for many families. If families are taking three buses from the other side of The City to school, we should know that and work with our city partners to reduce constraints.”

The resolution would also increase districtwide the Safe Routes to Schools program, an international movement that launched in the SFUSD in 2009 in five elementary schools and has since expanded to 35 schools, and encourages schools to support students who ride
bicycles, scooters, skateboards or other human-powered devices by providing storage space on campus.

On top of environmental benefits and reducing congestion around schools, helping students get to and from school is especially important because some students live across town and may believe driving is the only option.

“We have an assignment policy that encourages families to choose schools best for their students, so we have to make sure we have transportation options in place … for getting to whatever school they’ve chosen,” said Nik Kaestner, director of sustainability for the SFUSD.

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