Effect of a School Choice Policy Change on Active Commuting to Elementary School
Sirard, J. R., McDonald, K., Mustain, P., Hogan, W., & Helm, A. (2015). Effect of a School Choice Policy Change on Active Commuting to Elementary School. American Journal of Health Promotion, 30(1), 28-35.
PURPOSE: The purposes of this study were to assess the effect of restricting school choice on changes in travel distance to school and transportation mode for elementary school students. DESIGN: Study design was pre-post (spring 2010-fall 2010) quasi-experimental. SETTING: Study setting was all public elementary schools in Minneapolis, Minnesota. SUBJECTS: Subjects comprised approximately 20,500 students across 39 schools. INTERVENTION: Study assessed a school choice policy change that restricted school choice to a school closer to the family's home. MEASURES: School district transportation data were used to determine distance to school. Direct observations of student travel modes (two morning and two afternoon commutes at each time point) were used to assess transportation mode. ANALYSIS: Chi-square and independent-sample t-tests were calculated to describe the schools. Repeated measures general linear models were used to assess changes in travel distance to school and observed commuting behavior. RESULTS: Distance to school significantly decreased (1.83 ± .48 miles to 1.74 ± .46 miles; p = .002). We failed to observe any significant changes in morning (+.7%) or afternoon (-.7%) active commuting (both p = .08) or the number of automobiles in the morning (-7 autos per school; p = .06) or afternoon (+3 autos per school; p = .14). CONCLUSION: The more restrictive school choice policy decreased distance to school but had no significant effect on active commuting. Policy interventions designed to increase active commuting to school may require additional time to gain traction and programmatic support to induce changes in behavior.