The rate of traffic congestion in my school district is one of the leading causes of frustration for most teachers, students, and parents who want to get to different locations on time and without much hassle. The problem is part of a wider challenge in the transport sector where little attention has been paid to student transportation (Walker 1). Current interventions designed to address the problem have focused on reducing the number of private vehicles driven within the school district. While some of these initiatives have been hailed for being environmentally friendly and beneficial to overall student health (Center for Problem-Oriented Policing 1-2), there is a need to be more innovative and deliberate in instituting functional changes to the community’s transport infrastructure to alleviate its congestion problems.
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This document contains proposals to ease congestion in the school district by promoting behavioral changes among teachers, parents, and students through the introduction of new infrastructural design and layout plans that will incentivize them to embrace more sustainable ways of moderating traffic flow. This paper highlights the need to change the transportation model used in the school district from one that discourages the use of motor vehicles to a hybrid framework that emphasizes the need to change infrastructural designs, introduce new mass transportation programs and map out new routes to ease human and vehicle traffic flow. In line with this recommendation, a walking school bus program could be introduced.
Developing a Walking School Bus Program
A walking school bus program will help to decongest the school district by merging the benefits of having a large section of the student population walk, as opposed to driving to school, and setting up new infrastructure, such as pedestrian walks, to aid in their movement. This plan involves designing a direct route to school but with the safety of pedestrians in mind. If implemented well, students will be picked as they walk along these newly designated pedestrian walks using a bus – hence the “walking school bus” program. The strategy may also involve the voluntary recruitment of parents to drive the bus along the newly designated routes, pick up students at designated spots, and escort them to school without much interaction with other centers of traffic flow.
Buses are selected for use in this strategy because they are a reliable form of mass transportation in school settings and have been proven to significantly reduce the volume of vehicle traffic in such areas (Center for Problem-Oriented Policing 1-3). Lockers for students to store their learning materials could be installed along the newly established pedestrian walkways, as they need not carry their learning materials wherever they go. This proposed policy aligns with the recommendations of the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing, which highlights the efficacy of adopting this strategy in environments where communities live near the school environment (3).
In addition to the walking school bus program, cycling tracks could also be introduced in the school district to enable students who do not want to walk to cycle to class. In this regard, safe cycling routes should be identified and developed. Again, lockers should be set up along the route to allow students to cycle without having to carry unnecessary loads.
Part of the raft of solutions that can be adopted to ease congestion in the school district is mapping out specific routes that will be used by pedestrians and cyclists. This initiative has health advantages, such as improving the fitness of students who would have otherwise been using motorized transport to commute to and from class. Therefore, engaging in walking or cycling activities would be a form of physical exercise.
However, Babalis suggests that the only way communities can realize its health advantages is when the benefits of walking and cycling are integrated into people’s lifestyles (9). For example, students could be made aware of the various impacts of different transportation choices on their primary lived environments and their overall physical health. In line with this strategy, a reward scheme could be developed where compliant students are awarded points for cycling or walking to school. The scoring criteria could be integrated into their overall school performance or grading system. This advantage can only be achieved by mapping out safe ways that students could use to get in and out of school.
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Emphasis should be given to mapping out routes that alleviate congestion at busy intersections by developing sidewalks as an alternative transport route. Adding crosswalks and crossing guards will also complement such a plan but parents need to be made aware of the need to encourage their children to use these pathways to school. For example, they need to be reminded of the consequences of traffic offenses and how the new plan could help their children avoid them. Through this strategy, they could understand how their actions play a role in reducing congestion in the school district and improving student safety by using the newly mapped infrastructure for walking or cycling. These messages could be communicated to parents by giving them fliers that highlight most of the information described above.
Part of the mapping process should involve funneling traffic from congested areas to unused locations within the school district. For example, the staff’s car park could be relocated behind major buildings to ease congestion as students are dropped off or picked up from school. Additionally, the drop-off and pickup points could be separated by situating them in different locations within the school district so that there is a minimal commotion in traffic flow.
Furthermore, new road networks should serve these new points of traffic flow to minimize the potential for congestion in case of an accident or a surge in human traffic. This design pattern should be adopted in the same manner as a dual carriageway works where the traffic flow in one direction is unabated. However, He’s and Bush caution that such a strategy may fail to work in school environments that have outgrown their neighborhoods because there will be little room to reroute traffic without interfering with other core services (69).
Additionally, there is a need to involve local communities and all stakeholders in the school district to create a cohesive plan that would see the create synergy across all levels of implementation. For example, partnerships could be sought from local police, who already use mapping capabilities to administer the school district. The county planning department can also offer additional support to help in the planning process. Relative to this strategy, Laband and Lockaby say that community involvement is essential in the mapping process because some quarters of the population may object to the changes because of varied reasons, such as the reduction of green spaces (189-190). Broadly, this initiative should help to ease traffic along major routes and improve the wellbeing of students.
Changing Drop-Off, Pickup, and Physical Design Patterns
The last strategy that can be implemented to reduce congestion in the school district is changing drop-off, pickup and physical design measures of the school district. This strategy is important in altering transport schedules and traffic flow patterns to ease congestion. For example, changing the schedule that parents use to pick or drop off their children could have a significant positive impact on traffic flow in the school district.
However, it is important to acknowledge possible opposition to this strategy by parents who have multiple children that need to be dropped off or picked at different designated points. To address such challenges, the proposed plan will have to complement the mapping strategy which will allow the development of new alternative routes to be made accessible to those who will be inconvenienced by the proposed changes.
Alternatively, it could be prudent to add new drop-off or pick-up points in the district’s transport network to minimize the potential for congestion at designated intersections. Introducing valets at these new drop-off points could see a further reduction in congestion as children will be swiftly ushered from their cars to the school. This plan could be adopted as a complementary measure for easing traffic flow, as proposed by the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing (1-3).
Roads and pathways could also be curbed and new parking zones created as part of the measures to ease congestion in the school district. This change in the physical design pattern of the community’s infrastructure may be further supported by the creation of additional parking areas alongside the new walkways and cycling routes proposed in this report. Furthermore, “no parking” zones could be established along critical infrastructural areas in the district’s transport network to minimize the possibility of traffic congestion along major intersections. Lastly, it is critical to introduce these changes at the onset of the school term to avoid any confusion that may arise by changing people’s routines (Center for Problem-Oriented Policing 3).
The changes should also be communicated in advance to parents and other stakeholders through social media, or brochures, as earlier explained in this document. Furthermore, structural changes in the school infrastructure may be communicated through visible signboards along the road. These alterations should be clearly and concisely conveyed to maximize compliance. Broadly, these recommendations have been effectively used in other school districts to ease traffic congestion. For example, the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing says they have led to a 10% reduction in traffic congestion in a California school district (3). Similar positive results have been reported in the United Kingdom and Canada.
This report aimed to ease congestion in my school district by reviewing the current infrastructure design and instituting new programs to control human traffic flow. In line with this objective, this study has highlighted the need to change the current transportation model from a monolithic one that is heavily reliant on motorized transport to a hybrid framework that promotes behavioral changes, introduces new mass transportation programs and maps out new routes to ease traffic flow. These proposals, if well implemented, could not only ease the flow of traffic in the school district but also improve the health and overall wellbeing of students and community members.
Babalis, Dimitra, editor. Waterfront Urban Space: Designing For Blue-Green Places. Altralinea Edizioni, 2017.
Center for Problem-Oriented Policing. “Responses to the Problem of Traffic Congestion around Schools.” Pop Center. Web.
Hes, Dominique, and Judy Bush, editors. Enabling Eco-Cities: Defining, Planning, and Creating a Thriving Future. Springer, 2018.
Walker, Jarrett. “The Problem of School Transportation.” Human Transit. Web.
Laband, David, and Graeme Lockaby. Urban-Rural Interfaces: Linking People and Nature. John Wiley & Sons, 2020.
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