Exploring Possibilities for Alternative Transportation Options at Samohi

In August 2023, Climate Action Santa Monica engaged over 500 Samohi students and parents at back-to-school registration to spread valuable information about biking, carpooling, and taking transit to school. With the help of CASM team members, students, parents, and community members, we successfully gathered data about student travel patterns and preferences, and collected comments and feedback on current conditions. This four-day outreach event helped identify recurring concerns among students and parents regarding commutes to school, and revealed opportunities for encouraging climate friendlier transportation modes.

To get a sense of existing travel patterns, we performed a survey using a board and colored stickers. We asked students “How are you getting to school on the first day?” and asked them to place the corresponding sticker to a transportation mode on the board. This question was asked because first day habits (e.g. new job, new school year) tend to be highly predictive of long-term habits. The following is a recap of responses:

Through written and oral comments, students and parents expressed a need for safer bike lanes, better bus service along key routes, and a desire for improving congestion from drop-offs and pick-ups. Nearly 50% of students expressed being open to using another form of transportation other than the one they’re currently using, except for bicyclists, who overwhelmingly expressed a preference for biking. 

Acknowledging these issues and encouraging dialogue is important, as this four-day event has proved. Several students have asked to be involved in future outreach relating to transportation, and some parents have asked how they can get involved or who they should contact about a particular concern (e.g. one parent contacted Big Blue Bus to ask why Route 18 doesn’t have more frequent service around school start times). CASM will continue to engage and receive inclusive input from students, parents, and community members on school commuting to help identify opportunities for expanding and improving alternatives, alleviate congestion, improve air quality, and address much needed changes to our biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions (transportation).

Samohi bike racks at full capacity on October 10, 2023

One would be forgiven for thinking this picture is from one of Santa Monica High School’s Bike It! Walk It! Bus It! events or the former Bike to School event. The truth, however, is that this is just an ordinary Tuesday morning. A morning where the set of bike racks on the North Eastern side of campus are at full capacity, which is a testament to the success of the many bike infrastructure improvements made in the past decade serving Santa Monica High School and surrounding areas. One wonders now if this infrastructure can be expanded even further, to provide even more students the ability to choose this self-powered vehicle as an option to get to class. 

Getting more students to bike has a wide range of benefits for both students and the community. When used as a substitute for car travel, biking reduces vehicle miles traveled which leads to reduced levels of pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, and congestion on our roadways. Students benefit from the increased physical activity, and studies have shown that biking can help boost mental health leading to better academic performance. We should continue to encourage more biking (and walking) to school, for healthier students, a healthier planet, and a healthier community. 

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