For the first time ever, Portland Public Schools wants to hire someone to manage their Safe Routes to School program. The job was posted mid-November and it comes with a starting salary of $73,912.
The position was funded through an Oregon Department of Transportation grant that will prove the district with up to $150,000 over two years. It marks a significant step forward for Portland’s ongoing work to get people to stop driving to school and consider other options like walking and biking. Getting more people to ditch the car will be crucial to meeting the city’s goal of 25% of all trips by bike by 2030. Fewer drivers near schools will also increase safety, clean the air, and encourage more positive social interactions.
The City of Portland has had one of the nations strongest Safe Routes for decades, and the transportation bureau works in close collaboration with PPS on a variety of fronts including engineering projects near schools and educating kids on how to walk and bike safely.
The job listing also comes as PPS has fully embraced the bike bus movement popularized by physical education teacher Sam Balto at Alameda Elementary School. Balto’s viral videos and personal activism around the issue have put the issue of biking and walking to school squarely on PPS’s radar like no other initiative in its history. On a recent trip to PPS headquarters in north Portland, Balto noticed a framed photo of him leading the bike bus hanging in the office of a senior level PPS staffer.
According to the job description, the new PPS Safe Routes to School Program Coordinator will create and facilitate a district-wide SRTS steering committee to coordinate implementation of their Safe Routes plans. The job will also include coordination with students. Whoever gets the job will become liaison between the district and the Portland Bureau of Transportation and Oregon Department of Transportation.
ODOT plays a significant role in local SRTS work because they hold the purse strings for project and program funding. On that note, just this week ODOT announced their own Safe Routes to School Advisory Committee has recommended 26 projects across the state totaling $32.4 million to be funded through a grant program. Region 1 (where Portland is) won $8.5 million of that total including a $1.9 million grant that will build new sidewalks, crosswalks, and buffered bicycle lanes for students at Powell Butte Elementary School.
We have money, enthusiasm, and political support — all we need is someone (amazing and capable) to capitalize on it. As we’ve seen with the bike bus, the best ideas and execution often come from someone with a fresh perspective and deep passion for getting kids and families outside of cars and onto their bikes.