Are Florida’s Student Pedestrians On Their Own?

Smart Growth America and The Complete Streets Coalition report that Florida is home to the 6 most dangerous and 9 of the 14 most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians in the United States. All of Florida’s congressional districts except for the 18th and 19th districts rank among the U.S.’s 100 most dangerous for walking, and Florida owns 10 of America’s 25 most dangerous congressional districts for walking.

Based on PDI, the 20 most dangerous metro areas for walking in the United States. Source: Smart Growth America and The Complete Streets Coalition

With such a dangerous environment for pedestrians statewide, surely Florida school districts have plenty of reasons to transport students around hazardous walking conditions…

However, combined, the 9 Florida school districts that lie within America’s 6 most dangerous metropolitan areas for walkers are transporting 21% fewer students around hazardous walking conditions than they did 5 years ago and 40% fewer than they did 10 years ago. (Source of school district data in this article: Florida Department of Education School District Transportation Profiles)

Over the past 5 years, Florida school districts have reported a nearly 14,000-student decrease – a 34.6% overall decrease – in the number of students that they transport due to hazardous walking conditions. That dramatic decrease occurred over the same period that the statewide student population increased by more than 100,000 students.

As dramatic as that extraordinary reduction in “hazardous walker” transportation service is, the rate and amount of that reduction is tempered by the fact that 35 of Florida’s 67 school districts claim no hazardous walking conditions at all and haven’t for 10 years or more. Every one of those 35 school districts lie within one of the United States’ 100 most dangerous congressional districts.

So, while the data shows that walking conditions in Florida are dangerous and are becoming more dangerous every year for everyday pedestrians, why are school districts transporting or reporting that they’re transporting so few students around hazardous walking conditions and that they’re doing so for fewer and fewer students every year?

The Hazardous Walking Conditions statute is not only unreasonable in terms of the conditions that it requires for student walking conditions to be considered hazardous, the work that’s required for identifying and documenting students who are eligible for “hazardous ridership” is unnecessarily arduous as well.

It is time for the Florida Department of Education (FDOE) Transportation Department and the Florida Association for Pupil Transportation (FAPT) to get behind a change to the Florida Hazardous Walking Conditions statute that improves the criteria and relieves school districts of unnecessary and burdensome administrative requirements that are associated with it during this upcoming legislative session.

We’ve proposed a bill that does just that and FDOE Transportation and FAPT have it in their hands. It’s considerate of the state budget, it eliminates mandates on local school districts, it vastly improves the hazardous walking conditions criteria, and it relieves some of the burden on school districts that choose to transport students around hazardous walking conditions.

Now is the time to get the statute right.

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