, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 23-35

Children’s mode choice for the school trip: the role of distance and school location in walking to school

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Abstract

Rising levels of childhood obesity in the United States and a 75% decline in the proportion of children walking to school in the past 30 years have focused attention on school travel. This paper uses data from the US Department of Transportation’s 2001 National Household Travel Survey to analyze the factors affecting mode choice for elementary and middle school children. The analysis shows that walk travel time is the most policy-relevant factor affecting the decision to walk to school with an estimated direct elasticity of −0.75. If policymakers want to increase walking rates, these findings suggest that current policies, such as Safe Routes to School, which do not affect the spatial distribution of schools and residences will not be enough to change travel behavior. The final part of the paper uses the mode choice model to test how a land use strategy—community schools—might affect walking to school. The results show that community schools have the potential to increase walking rates but would require large changes from current land use, school, and transportation planning practices.