Mesa County Regional Transportation Planning Office (RTPO) launched a mobile app in early August of 2022, the app is designed to help parents and kids find their safest routes to school for walking or biking. Before explaining how the new app works, one must first understand how local safe routes were established within Mesa County.
In 2016, Mesa County used grant funds to conduct qualitative assessments of the transportation corridors surrounding most of the District 51 middle and elementary schools. Also known as walk audits and traffic control audits, these on-the-ground assessments looked at the presence or lack of sidewalks, sidewalk width, condition and accessibility. The goal of the audits was to identify barriers that students have when walking or bicycling to school and suggest improvements both on and off school grounds, thus creating a prioritized list for needed infrastructure improvements. The data collected during these audits was compiled in the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) environment, and maps with prioritized routes were created for each school, within a two-mile radius. These maps are available in PDF format on the Mesa County RTPO website, along with thorough reports and summaries for each of the schools audited, click here.
Rating the Routes
Based on the national standards for Safe Routes to School, local routes identified during the walk and traffic control audits conducted in 2016 were also prioritized and color-coded based on the existing infrastructure and the degree of safety. Each time infrastructure improvements are made, the information is updated on the GIS servers for Mesa County, City of Grand Junction, City of Fruita, and Town of Palisade.
Using the Mobile App to Find the Safest Route
The groundwork done in 2016 laid an important foundation for Mesa County Safe Routes, the data collected helped to build a comprehensive map system of District 51 schools. In 2021, Mesa County RTPO received another round of funding to expand upon the mapping work, making routes searchable through the development of a mobile app. During the build phase, the development team used a combination of tools that allows routes to be searchable and prioritized based on safety. Google Directions services are used to suggest routes based on starting and end points. These suggested routes are cross-referenced with Mesa County’s safe sidewalk data around each of the suggested Google routes. County sidewalk data is also used to score the route, the app automatically selects the route with the best score, thus providing the user with the safest route. Use the app to plan a trip and try walking or wheeling to school.