Did you know that as much as 30 percent of morning rush-hour traffic is caused by parents driving kids to school? While the congestion and safety hazards are most obvious right around our local schools, the commuting adds to traffic jams on Highway 101 and other major arterial streets all around our community.

The traffic also leads to unnecessary air pollution and gasoline consumption, as well as stressed-out moms and dads!

A new program, Walk & Roll, aims to decrease these effects by making it easier for local parents to get out of the “drive the kids everywhere” habit.

Walk & Roll is a project of Safe Routes to School, and helps parents and student use alternative transportation to reduce congestion, improve health and help the environment. Check out the fun new Web site, www.walk-roll.org, for information on carpooling, walking, biking and busing to school.

It’s easy to find a neighbor to share carpool duties with, and save lots of time and gas while reducing congestion. There are even prizes such as MP3 downloads for families who sign up for School Pool, an online rideshare matching service offered by local government (the program has been used successfully and safely for years by employers, and now is available for schools). Log on to School Pool and in a few minutes receive a list of other neighboring parents who are interesting in carpooling.

Walking and biking are healthy, active modes of transportation, and Walk & Roll provides online maps, advice and other resources. Use Walk & Roll to coordinate walking school buses or bike trains to make walking and biking safer and more visible. Learn about bike rodeos, helmet distributions, Pedal Power and other educational offerings.

Another option is to have MTD take kids to school with the school booster buses. All of the secondary schools are served by MTD school booster buses, and riding a bus is about 20 times safer than riding in a car. School passes are inexpensive, so consider this low-stress option.

Some schools are fully embracing Walk & Roll by participating in a weekly challenge, where student homerooms compete against one another to rack up the highest number of students using alternative transportation. Winners at the end of the semester will receive special prizes and recognition. See if your school is participating or help start up a challenge.

Let’s all make a commitment to try alternative transportation at least once per week. If we all formed a carpool, put our kids on the bus or encouraged them to walk or bike to school, we would all experience a reduction in congestion and great health and environmental benefits. We would reduce the drop-off/pick-up traffic headaches around schools. We would improve our children’s health, alertness and fitness. We would reduce each family’s carbon footprint and reduce air pollution.

Walk & Roll: getting to school healthy, happy and green.

— Michael Chiacos is an energy program transportation specialist for the Community Environmental Council.