- Look for partners in your local health community. “Find an entity that is interested in increasing physical activity in your area, whether that is the city, the health department, or a health care provider. For Portland, it was sponsorship from Kaiser Permanente that made it possible to create walking maps and to provide the thousands of pedometers as an incentive to participants signing up for the program.”
- Offer an incentive. “Pedometers are one of the first easy ways to get people to pay attention to how active or inactive they are by getting them to count their steps.”
- Build upon new improvements made for pedestrians. “If a trail is built, use that as a launch of a walking program.”
St. Louis, Mo.
Tom Shrout, executive director at Citizens for Modern Transit, has traveled the country giving advice on running a citizens organization to support transit. Based on his years of experience with the Ten Toe Express in St. Louis, he has some suggestions for organizations that start their own program.
- Take stock of the public transportation available in your city or town. Whether you have buses, light rail, subways, commuter rail or a ferry, this program can be adapted easily to your home town. Even if you only have a couple of bus lines, you could showcase the destinations available on those lines with walking routes.
- Budget. “Citizens for Modern Transit launched the Ten Toe Express with a grant,” says Shrout, “but a lack of funding shouldn’t deter organizations from starting their own programs. We provided our participants with pedometers, a walking kit, printed maps and walking guides. These are nice to have, but not a requirement for starting the program.”
- Enlist volunteers. “Our office staff is very small,” says Shrout. “We have multiple walk groups. It would be impossible for us to do it without volunteers. They’re critical to making the program successful.” Volunteer Dan O’Connor says he began to volunteer when the Ten Toe Express was just getting started, “because the combination of walking, city life and people appealed to me. As I got into it, I enjoyed the variety of people I met and the places we get to see. I think a volunteer has to be a people person and realize that this is a very diverse group of people. They’re not all power walkers.”
- Use maps. Give participants ideas of places to go. CMT drew maps on Google Maps so they knew the walking distances involved. Also, says Shrout, “You can get an idea using Google Earth to figure out distances and the best walking path in your own city.” Walk leader Dan O’Connor has moved beyond the maps CMT provided, and now he selects his own routes. “As more people joined,” O’Connor says, “that gave me an impetus to find new places to go. Now it’s a challenge for me to find new places.”
- Find somebody to collaborate with. It would be easy to collaborate with existing groups to form walk groups — for example, a parish, the local YMCA, the Sierra Club or the area AARP chapter.
CMT encourages other organizations to start their own walking program. Shrout tells organizations around the country to use the information on CMT’s Web site as a model. It has sign-up forms, survey information, walking maps and information on stretching, nutrition and walking safely.
Kathleen Osher of Transit Alliance in Denver, Colo., is finalizing funding for a Ten Toe Express program similar to the one in St. Louis. “I contacted Tom Shrout because our organizations are similar,” she says. “We plan to build on their experience, but the program will be somewhat different. In addition to the walking tours, we want to use a buddy system approach to create a walking carpool. We would like to create a support network because it is not always easy to change how you commute when it is so easy to hop in the car and go.”
Transit Alliance is early in the process, but Osher has already learned a few lessons.
- Build partnerships. “For us, one of the most important things is having as many partners as possible so that we get buy-in early in the process.”
- Work with volunteers. “Having a volunteer group of passionate folks to rely on will make us successful.”
- Think strategically. “I think one of the most exciting pieces of this is that it ties together health, land use and transit. In terms of transit, it’s not about cars versus transit. It’s about choices and thinking strategically about how we move people efficiently.”
The benefits of the Ten Toe Express can be enjoyed by people from all walks of life, in cities and towns all over the country. The program is inexpensive and easy to run, especially in collaboration with other groups. It can directly increase ridership and make users of public transportation feel less intimidated by an unfamiliar system and more likely to use public transportation.