Special to the Independent
The City of Everett Department of Transportation and Mobility, along with Green Streets Initiative (GSI), announces the completion of its exciting What Moves Everett Schools project. GSI was hired by the City of Everett Department of Transportation and Mobility to lead this work, in conjunction with the Everett Public Schools, to understand how the school community currently commutes to school, how they would ideally like to do so, and what obstacles keep them from commuting the way they would like.
This project was conducted under the leadership of Eric Molinari, Everett Transportation Planner, and Katherine Jenkins-Sullivan, Everett Sustainability Planner.
“We felt that the student population often doesn’t get surveyed when it comes to these kinds of studies. Doing this project in our schools will be a good way to gather information that, frankly, other places just don’t really have,” said Molinari.
Jenkins-Sullivan was particularly interested in the project’s ability to explore the details and nuances of “how individuals travel to and from school and some of the barriers they face with safety on our roads, while uplifting the voices of those who choose methods besides cars for travel.”
Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria said that “The data gathered in this study has reaffirmed what we already knew, Everett students overwhelmingly walk to school. We are committed to improving road safety for all our students, especially those students who walk, take transit, bike or roll to school and are the most vulnerable road users. This will be instrumental in continuing the work we have already started through the Safe Routes To School program in partnership with MassDOT.”
The project began with an unprecedented survey of the entire student body. Of roughly 7,000 students in the district, 4,500 students participated in answering questions about their commutes and what transportation modes they would like to try.
GSI then hosted and recorded on video one-on-one conversations with 19 Everett students, parents or guardians, and faculty or staff about their challenges, insights, and suggestions for improvements they have regarding their commutes to school.
Findings and Highlights
While the Planning Department and other city staff knew that many students walked to school, this study confirmed that Everett is truly a city of walkers! The percentage of students who walk is significantly higher than any other mode, and is far greater than what the Planning Department staff expected to find.
There is a potential positive correlation between higher income schools and kids who get driven to school.
Many students mentioned the need for more MBTA buses, and possibly a train, in Everett. Students highlighted the frequency and timing of buses. Some students also mentioned not being able to access a bus at all, due to where they live and to financial considerations.
While only 1-2% of students bike to school or elsewhere in Everett, 16% would like to do so. That said, students didn’t seem to understand the BlueBikes bike share system or that it could be an option for some of them to use.
Thanks to this data, the city is exploring improving transit opportunities, including for the school community. The Planning Department is looking into options for increased bus travel and better connections to the nearby Orange Line stations. Everett is also considering advocating for bike safety and bike education, and, since the study concluded, began working with the Safe Routes to Schools program.
Another way the city is following up on the What Moves Everett Schools project will be through a What Moves Everett Transportation Fair scheduled for June 2024, spearheaded by Green Streets Initiative. The event will showcase a wide range of healthy and environmentally friendly ways to get around Everett and related gear and equipment, as well as local food and music. Partners will include various city agencies and local organizations.
Finally, Eric Molinari and the Everett Planning Department are also rolling out a new speaker series called “Street Level Everett”. Street Level Everett’s inaugural event was held Monday, December 11, 2023 at Night Shift Brewing in Everett. Everett Director of Transportation and Mobility Jay Monty led the discussion on the City’s Transportation Demand Management ordinance and “How to Encourage New Development to be Less Car-Centric in a Rapidly Growing City”. The next “Street Level Everett” event is scheduled for Monday, March 25, 2024 from 6-8 PM at Night Shift Brewing in Everett.
Lessons for Other Communities
According to Shannon Sullivan, Project Manager of the Green Streets Initiative, “You won’t know how people get around or what they know about their transportation options until you ask them. And what you find may surprise you!”
The project found that crowd-sourced solutions were very useful and creative, and that transit users had great ideas about bus timing and connections. It also turned out that students, faculty and staff would love transportation benefits, including free or reduced MBTA passes.
Who is Green Streets Initiative (GSI)?
Green Streets Initiative is a Greater Boston-based organization which has been raising interest in active, green commuting since 2006 – in schools and with organizations and workplaces. Green Streets’ mission is to help employers, neighborhoods, and cities improve the overall health and vibrancy of their communities and the greater populace through the promotion of environmentally-friendly modes of travel such as walking, bicycling, and public transportation.
What Moves Everett Schools is part of GSI’s “What Moves Us” program. What Moves Us projects involve video conversations and surveys with community members that are then shared with others to inspire the public and to support the work of planners and decision-makers. The overall goal is to make “car-light” transportation more accessible and safe for all.