In July 2023, Green Communities Canada was pleased to be awarded a three-year contract to deliver the expanded School Travel Planning (STP) program across the City of Toronto. The program is funded through the City of Toronto Transportation Services in support of the Vision Zero Road Safety Plan, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB), and is delivered in collaboration with the Toronto Student Transportation Group (TSTG) and Alta Planning + Design (Alta).
“Traffic safety is becoming an increasingly important issue for many schools and communities across the city, especially when it comes to the safety of children and youth,” remarked Michelle Aarts, TDSB School Board Trustee (Ward 16, Beaches-East York). “The expanded STP program comes at a critical time, when Vision Zero is a municipal priority and concerns of children’s health are top of mind.”
Read on to learn more about the expanded program and how the initiative evolved to be where it is today.
What is School Travel Planning?
School Travel Planning is a community-based approach to systemically improve traffic safety and increase rates of active and sustainable school travel. It utilizes a holistic “E’s” framework, including Education, Encouragement, Enforcement (optional), Evaluation, and Engineering, alongside recent additions of Equity and Engagement.
The program moves through five key phases: Setup Program, Assess Conditions, Plan, Implement, and Reassess Conditions.
History of School Travel Planning
Green Communities Canada has been a leader in School Travel Planning and similar active school travel programming since the mid-1990s. In 2010, Jacky Kennedy and partners tested the program in 120 schools across the country through a national pilot and the program continued beyond the pilot in Ottawa, Toronto, and other communities.
Since 2015, our School Travel Planners have delivered School Travel Planning program in approximately 150 schools across Toronto. The TDSB led the Traffic Safety program, a variation of the School Travel Planning program with 12-15 schools per year, and the TCDSB led the STP program with four-10 schools each year. While Green Communities Canada delivered both the programs, they largely operated independently with slight variations in the approaches for the respective school boards.
The Expanded Program
Since September 2023, Green Communities Canada and Alta have been delivering a consolidated and expanded School Travel Planning program. This initiative combines the previous Traffic Safety and School Travel Planning programs into one across both school boards and now works in close collaboration with the TSTG. The program has also significantly expanded, with School Travel Planners working with up to 45 schools each year; more than double the number in previous years!
The newly-established partnership designates Alta as the program’s technical lead. Alta enhances the long-running program by providing transportation engineering and planning expertise, especially as it relates to active transportation. This partnership is expected to have a significant impact on the quality of issue identification and the development of actionable recommendations for municipal partners to help implement.
“As part of the expanded program, we are thrilled to work in partnership with Alta Planning + Design, tapping into their expertise in community engagement and transportation engineering,” said Nicole Roach, Sustainable Mobility Director at Green Communities Canada. “This partnership has already helped to elevate the program in tangible ways, and we are excited to see what we can accomplish together.”
Under the leadership of TSTG, schools have been selected for the School Travel Planning program based on a comprehensive set of criteria. These include their location in the city, previous traffic safety concerns, child-pedestrian motor vehicle collisions, proximity to new/upcoming infrastructure projects, external challenges to student success, and other relevant factors. This updated approach has connected us with schools across the city; from Etobicoke to Scarborough, and from Leslieville to North York.
Based on this approach, program partners are working to integrate and embed school communities — especially parents and students — more directly in the public consultation process. Additionally, with the selection of schools facing external challenges, there is an opportunity and an urgent need to apply equitable engagement principles within the program, such as reducing barriers to participation, building meaningful relationships, and addressing systemic transportation inequities.
“School Travel Planning, at its core, is about community engagement: collaborating with principals, teachers, parents, caregivers, community members, and students. When working in a diverse city like Toronto, it is essential that the program involves everyone in decision-making processes and prioritizes the needs of equity-deserving populations,” expressed Isooda Niroomand, Senior Planner at Alta and contributing author of Green Communities Canada’s Equity and Engagement in School Travel Planning Report.
Since School Travel Planning was introduced in Canadian communities, it has been an effective approach to build community capacity and increase rates of active school travel.
“Building a culture of walking and cycling to school happens one school at a time. School Travel Planning helps build momentum for community-based action plans, encouragement programs, infrastructure improvements and ultimately, safer streets. With our TDSB and City of Toronto partners, we’re focused on creating tangible improvements in school communities across the city,” shared Jared Kolb, Interim Executive Director at Green Communities Canada.
Keep an eye out for more crossing guards, crosswalks, walking school buses, and traffic safety measures at a school near you! For School Travel Planning resources, like toolkits and ideas, visit SchoolTravel.ca. If you’d like your school to be considered for the School Travel Planning program in future years, please contact your school board and/or the TSTG.
Thank you to our funders City of Toronto Transportation Services in support of the Vision Zero Road Safety Plan, Toronto Catholic District School Board, and Toronto District School Board.