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City purchases trip-tracking software for Safe Routes to School program

Posted by on March 13th, 2013 at 10:43 am

The Hub logo.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) is going high-tech with their vaunted Safe Routes to School program. In an effort to motivate kids to bike and walk to school, they’ve purchased a product that uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to automatically track school travel trips.

PBOT has won a $35,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation that they intend to use for bike parking and for the purchase of a The Hub, a software package from Saris Cycling Group*. Gabe Graff, who manages PBOT’s Safe Routes program, says they plan to implement The Hub at four of the 80 schools that receive the program.

“We’re interested in giving schools, parents, and volunteers a really easy way to incentivize biking or walking to school,” says Graff.

(Photo: Saris)

The Saris Hub system records the number of trips students take and keeps track of their total miles traveled. The idea is to use the data to create friendly competitions and challenges among students and schools. The ongoing rankings can be tracked online and kids compete to see who can log the most trips. Once the system is in place, school staff can award prizes to top finishers all with an eye toward encouraging more walking and biking.

The system works via a card carried by each student (it can be attached to a helmet) that’s scanned into the system as they park their bike or walk into school. All the data is compiled on a Saris-hosted website, which removes the burden of keeping track of trips away from teachers and school administrators.

Graff says PBOT hopes to launch the program this month after a meeting and training session with interested schools. If you’re interested in getting one these systems at your school email for more information on how to get involved.

Learn more about The Hub on the Saris website or download a presentation about it here (PDF).

Below is a video from Saris that shares more about the program:

*Total cost to implement The Hub at these four schools is $8,400. The rest of the grant money will go toward bike parking.

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How does the card know how far the bike was ridden? As best I can tell from that video and the Saris website, the card just seems like an electronic means of tallying who rode and who didn’t on a given day. Presumably the riders have to create an account and specify how far they are riding. If I’m right, this seems like a very expensive bit of technology for what it does.


Do you know which schools get to participate?

Kiel Johnson (Go By Bike)
Kiel Johnson

very cool! Euegen has a similiar system which costs a lot more than this one. It will be exciting to see how this system plays out in Portland. I would love to see a counter on bikeportland listing how many riders rode to school each day from the various schools!


To clarify, a portion of the $35,000 grant ($8,400) will pay for these 4 trip tracking systems. The bulk of the funding will be used to provide quality bike parking at public schools currently lacking it.


PS – If you’re interested helping get one of these systems running at your school, shoot an email to for more information on how to get involved.


Yes, we have been using an RFID system called Boltage (previously Freiker) since 2009 at the 4j School District in Eugene. After trying it out at one school we’ve expanded it to two other sets of two schools (4 schools total). Most of the funding has come from a research grant that is taking the information from the RFID reader and our parent/student surveys and tallies and looking at what kind of incentives as well as environmental changes might be at work to get more kids walking and biking at various schools.
I saw this Saris system at a conference this past fall and I’m excited to see how it works for Portland. We have had some complications with the solar power keeping our RFID readers charged but that has improved over the past couple of years. Plus Boltage is more expensive than this Saris system.

I do think these type of encouragement programs do work to get kids excited about walking and biking. It gets them to try it and then hooks them into the behavior. The studies are still out though….will keep you posted.