SPINNING WHEELS ... Palo Alto's effort to encourage students to walk and bike to school has been one of the school district's major success stories in the past decade thanks to a concerted effort by school officials, parents and city planners. Now, the city is looking to kick the city's Safe Routes to School program into a higher gear. The City Council plans to approve a $400,000 contract with the firm Alta Planning + Design (the same consultant working on the upgrade to the city's bicycle and pedestrian master plan) at its Monday meeting. Most of the costs of expanding the Safe Routes program (a $660,000 effort that includes the new study) will be covered by a grant from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. The county's Vehicle Emission Reductions Based at Schools (VERBS) program is providing $528,000 for the program while the city is funding $132,000. The expanded program is expected to supplement the "4 E's" that make up the program — education, encouragement, engineering and enforcement — with a fifth E: evaluation. The consultant is expected to help the city evaluate and update the bicycle-safety curriculum in local schools and evaluate the impact of the program on commute safety and congestion. The two-year project also involves creation of comprehensive "Walk and Roll to School" maps for every school in the district. "Walking and biking to PAUSD public schools have greatly increased in recent years, due mostly to successful education and encouragement programs," the city's Chief Transportation Official Jaime Rodriguez wrote in a report. "This project will build on those past successes and introduce new program elements." At the same time, the city plans to deploy bicycle and pedestrian counting stations to monitor seasonal commuting trends at schools and unveil a web-based carpool and trip-share tool, Rodriguez wrote.
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