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The field of Safe Routes to School planning has enjoyed a certain predictable workflow over the last several years- planners and engineers meet with parents and school staff, document deficiencies through field review, and propose solutions.  While each school is different, the approach has varied very little.

Recent innovations in both mobile data collection and analysis, however, have made the process more data-driven and cost-effective.

In essence, GPS-enabled smartphones can now take the place of the traditional “clipboard and paper” field review.  In a typical walk audit, participants are given a map of the area to be audited, and are asked to mark up the issues they observe.  Typically, a Circulate Staffer will document the issues with her own clipboard, and will supplement the markups with photos.

This process often leaves a significant amount of back-end data digitization to be done, which takes time.  As does sifting through dozens of photos to make sure the right photo goes with the issue it is supposed to be documenting.  Further, cities often request that we provide digital records of the issues identified in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) file format, which requires an additional workflow and staff commitment.

Circulate San Diego has streamlined this process using a third-party smartphone app.  While participants can still carry a clipboard and paper, we are now able to use an app to take a geotagged photo (or even video), complete a fillable form on the type of deficiency, and drop the collection of issues into a GIS basemap for City use. 


This new approach saves time, money, and prevents errors.  We have already used this to develop a bike rack inventory for the City of Carlsbad, and will be rolling out this approach on our National City SRTS project later this month, and we believe it to be the first of its kind in Southern California.

Let us know if you’re interested in bringing these and other innovative data collection and analysis techniques to your community!