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The Problem of Traffic Congestion Around Schools

Guide No. 50 (2007)

by Nancy La Vigne

The Problem of Traffic Congestion Around Schools

What This Guide Does and Does Not Cover

This guide begins by describing the problem and reviewing the factors that increase the risks of school traffic congestion. It then identifies a series of questions to help you analyze your local problem. Finally, it reviews responses to the problem, and what is known about them from evaluative research and local practice.

For the purposes of this guide, school–related traffic congestion is defined as the overcrowding and blocking of streets on or near school property that is typically associated with car transportation of children to and from school. While routes to and from school are examined in the context of this problem, most of this guide is devoted to problems occurring in the immediate vicinity of the schools that generate traffic–related problems. A thorough review of the research indicates that the vast majority of problems pertaining to school traffic congestion occur in middle and elementary schools. This guide therefore focuses primarily on causes of and ways to prevent traffic around these subsets of schools, although most responses could apply to a wide range of educational institutions.

School traffic congestion is but one aspect of a larger set of problems related to school traffic. This guide is limited to addressing the particular harms school traffic congestion creates. Related problems not directly addressed in this guide, each of which requires separate analysis, include the following:

Some of these related problems are covered in other guides in this series, all of which are listed at the end of this guide. For the most up-to-date listing of current and future guides, see www.popcenter.org.

Finally, it is important to emphasize that this guide assumes that you are interested in solving a school traffic problem that already exists. As with many crime, disorder, and public nuisance problems, the best way to prevent school traffic congestion is to “design it out” during the school site-planning stage. While the issue of new school construction is beyond this guide’s scope, several resources offer guidance on the best way to design parking, drop-off, and pick-up areas, and procedures to ensure children’s safe and speedy transport to and from new schools in the planning stages 1.

General Description of the Problem

School-related traffic congestion and the risks such congestion poses to the safety of the students, teachers, parents, residents, and motorists in and around school locations is a significant problem in communities both throughout the United States and abroad. The most obvious cause of traffic congestion around schools is vehicles, and the biggest source of those vehicles is parents’ dropping off and picking up their children from school. In the United States, roughly three-quarters of school-aged children are taken to school by car 2. In the United Kingdom, the share of children taken to school by car is estimated to be between one-third 3 and one-half 4. In both countries, the rate of increase in car transportation of children to school has been significant, often creating serious traffic congestion problems 5. As described below, an increase in children taken to school by car is just one contributing factor to the problem. Other factors include changes in school purposes and populations, new school construction, the addition or elimination of busing, and the overall physical infrastructure, street layout, and traffic signs and signals surrounding a school.

Traffic congestion alone causes inconvenience to drivers, leads to lost time from the job, and can contribute to “road rage.” In addition to affecting parent drivers and other commuters, school traffic congestion is a source of problems for students, school staff, residents in and around schools, and local police charged with enforcing traffic laws and responding to problems raised by residents and schools. More importantly, congestion can be a source of traffic crashes and child pedestrian injuries and deaths 6. Child pedestrian injuries due to traffic are more likely to occur in settings with high traffic volume and on-street parking, with children’s often emerging “masked” from behind parked cars 7.

Factors Contributing to Traffic Congestion Around Schools

Understanding the factors that contribute to your problem will help you frame your own local analysis questions, determine effective measures, recognize key intervention points, and select appropriate responses to the problem of school traffic congestion. The following factors contribute to school traffic congestion.

Population Trends and Changes in Transportation Modes

While many factors contribute to the problem of school traffic congestion, according to experts, the single greatest explanation for recent school traffic congestion is the growth of the school-aged population over a relatively short time, combined with urban sprawl 8. Both factors have led to an unanticipated volume of students’ being taken to school by car, rendering original school drop-off and pick-up schemes (including guidelines for when and where parents may drop off, pick up, and park), street layouts, and traffic control measures ineffective in controlling congestion. A related factor is the growth in car ownership and use, which has been associated with a decline in parents’ willingness for children to walk or bike to and from school independently 9. Indeed, far fewer children are walking or biking to school, with official statistics’ showing a 40 percent decrease in school-aged children walking or biking between 1977 and 1995 10. This may be explained by changes in the workforce, with more working mothers’ taking their children to school by car on their way to work 11.

When asked, parents who choose to take their children by car cite distance, traffic hazards, time constraints, and bad weather as the most common reasons for selecting this transportation mode 12. Other research has asserted that both road safety and “stranger danger” are the key explanations for why parents are increasingly taking their children to school by car 13. One can view such threats to child safety as both a cause and a symptom of school congestion. On the one hand, parental concerns about traffic hazards could lead more parents to drive their children to school, thereby increasing congestion. On the other hand, traffic congestion could lead to more child pedestrian accidents, with backed up cars’ blocking the views of small children crossing the street to enter school.

High school student drivers may also contribute to traffic congestion problems around schools, particularly because they are inexperienced drivers who often disregard traffic and parking signs 14. However, this source of the problem is easily addressed by requiring students to get parking permits or to park in remote lots, or to prohibit students from driving to school altogether 15. Perhaps for this reason, the literature on this topic rarely attributes traffic congestion to student drivers. (Related problems, such as vandalism, litter, and disorder around high school parking lots, are quite common 16 but are not addressed in this guide). Nonetheless, most of the effective responses in this guide apply in the high school context.

In some jurisdictions, reduced budgets have led to the elimination of busing systems, thereby increasing the use of cars and the congestion they create. In other school districts, busing has increased to promote more racially and socioeconomically balanced student bodies. In some cases, however, busing can contribute to congestion problems, such as when buses share the same drop-off and pick-up lanes as parents vehicles. Even in districts that provide busing with adequate space and effective loading and unloading arrangements, some parents may prefer to drive their children to school, thereby exacerbating traffic congestion.

Physical Design Issues

As described above, the use of cars as a major means of transportation of children to and from school is inextricably linked to the design of the area surrounding the school. Narrow streets or those that allow parking on both sides are unlikely to provide ample room for cars to maneuver. Areas that are “landlocked” by cul-de-sacs may offer few alternative routes into and out of the area surrounding the school, and streets that become one-way during peak school arrival and departure times may create confusion rather than resolving congestion issues.

Poorly timed traffic lights, entry and exit routes designed without consideration of overall commuting patterns, and a lack of temporary parking spaces may also be sources of congestion problems. In addition, congestion may be caused by too many children”s being dropped off or picked up at the same time. Furthermore, the absence of pedestrian and bike pathways and crosswalks and the presence of cars parked along the major thoroughfares leading to and from the school can increase the harm traffic congestion causes by blocking the children”s visibility.

New Schools, Residential Subdivisions, and Changes in School Assignment

If not well planned, building a new school in an area may result in traffic congestion. New schools may be constructed to anticipate the growth associated with new home construction, but there may be no adequate plan for the traffic the school generates. Indeed, even new developments designed to be pedestrian-friendly with walkways through the neighborhood have encountered congestion problems around schools, due to parental concerns about child safety 17. Conversely, the construction of a new residential subdivision may lead the school system to change the school assignment process. Such changes can alter the school composition, with younger students’ generating more parent drop-offs and pick-ups, and students’ arriving from more remote destinations leading to an increase in congestion caused by the addition of school buses. Similarly, increases in the school population caused by changing demographics may lead to the use of temporary “relocatables”trailer classrooms that by necessity are placed in parking areas that would have otherwise served to decrease congestion. These are just a few examples of how school traffic congestion problems can be caused by the ever-changing size, capacity, and population of schools and how, like squeezing a water balloon, changes in one or two schools in a school system can affect traffic congestion around others.

Understanding Your Local Problem

The information provided above is only a generalized description of school traffic congestion. You should use these basic facts to help develop a more specific understanding of your local problem. Analyzing the local problem carefully will help you design a more effective response strategy.


The following groups have an interest in the school traffic-congestion problem and should be considered for the contribution they might make to gathering information about the problem and responding to it.


This guide is written for police, not because they are the biggest stakeholders in solving traffic congestion problems, but because they are often one of the first to be called when traffic congestion develops around schools. Police are more likely to be contacted only after tensions have developed among residents, school staff, and parents over who is responsible for the congestion. Police therefore are in a unique position to serve as mediator between these groups, helping them to seek common ground in developing and implementing effective solutions and ultimately making their jobs easier by reducing the number of calls for service generated by congestion, and the traffic violations and traffic safety issues that often accompany it.


When it comes to both understanding the underlying source of the congestion problem and developing responses to it, parents may be the single most important stakeholder you identify. This is because parents’ decisions to drive their children to school, their concern for their children’s safety, and their regard for existing traffic rules can tremendously affect the problem.


While research indicates that most school traffic problems occur around elementary and middle schools, in cases where congestion is around high schools, students are significant stakeholders given that their driving and parking habits are likely contributing to the problem. Student input in lower-grade schools is equally important, and can become critical if a response strategy includes encouraging children to walk or bike to school.

School Administrators and Teachers

School staff often experience the aggravation of school traffic congestion in equal measure to parents. Some staff may be inconvenienced by congestion in their own commutes to and from the school. Others, such as the principal and school administrators, bear the brunt of complaints by parents and local residents. Given that most congestion occurs in and around school property, the child safety concerns associated with traffic congestion become the school’s responsibility, as well.

Local Residents

Residents living near schools with congestion problems are very much affected by the problem, and may also be contributing to it. Imagine being late for work and pulling out of your driveway, only to realize that school traffic is at its peak and it will take another 10 minutes just to travel a tenth of a mile. Residents may become so frustrated by repeated complaints to the school or local police with no sign of resolution in sight, that they deliberately ignore signs prohibiting street parking or making streets one-way during drop-off and pick-up times, further contributing to the congestion problem.

Other Commuters

In some areas, school traffic congestion is caused or exacerbated by commuters whose routes take them past the school or those who use residential roads around schools as shortcuts to reduce travel time, despite the congestion they may encounter around schools.

Transportation and Planning Department

Your local transportation and planning department is also a critical partner in understanding and addressing the problem of school traffic congestion. This agency can change or add traffic signs, create one-way streets, and change the traffic-light timing to increase traffic flow and reduce congestion around the school.

School Bus Companies

In cases in which congestion occurs around schools that have busing, the bus companies are an important partner in developing responses to the problem. For example, if buses are perceived as contributing to the congestion problem, the school may determine that the best approach is to stagger bus drop-off and pick-up times and/or schedule those times so that they do not coincide with parental drop-off and pick-up times.

Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) and School Boards

Formal entities such as PTAs can conduct surveys of their membership to better understand the nature of the problem, to enlist their participation and support in developing and implementing responses, and to aid in administering surveys designed to assess the response’s impact.

School Building Architects and Landscapers

School architects and landscapers may need to be enlisted to better understand possible and feasible changes to school property, as well as to aid in drafting plans to reduce congestion. In addition, while most of the literature on school traffic congestion pertains to schools already existing when a traffic problem emerges, it is important to note that school architects can play a critical role in designing out traffic problems before new schools are erected.

Neighboring Businesses

In some cases, schools are located near retailers or businesses that generate their own traffic or that suffer from school-generated traffic. These businesses represent another important stakeholder group in understanding and addressing the traffic congestion problem.

Asking the Right Questions

The following are some critical questions you should ask in analyzing your particular problem of school traffic congestion, even if the answers are not always readily available. Your answers to these and other questions will help you choose the most appropriate set of responses later on.


Incident data will enable you to measure the level and type of traffic congestion problem occurring around the school(s) affected by congestion. To answer these questions, it is useful first to learn whether the school system and/or police department has a mechanism for recording traffic congestion complaints. In some cases, police calls-for-service data may provide the necessary details to extract this information. In the case of school-generated data, however, the school system is likely to document only traffic safety issues, such as crashes involving the injury or death of a child. It is likely, therefore, that the police officer assigned to the school (or the patrol area in which the school is located) is the best source of incident data. The questions to ask to obtain incident data include the following:


A useful means to assist in answering these questions about setting is to conduct field observations at and around the school at different times of day and days of week to find out where most traffic is coming from, where people park, and where pedestrian pathways and flows are located . Such observations may also reveal whether any nonschool commuter traffic cutting through the school area is contributing to the problem.

You can find a useful resource to guide such field observations in a document produced by the National Highway Safety Transportation Board that provides advice to those conducting pedestrian and bicycle crash analyses. See http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/people/injury/pedbimot/ped/pbcatjan01/index.html.


School System Context

In most growing school systems, school assignment is reevaluated each year. As a result, even if your particular problem is congestion around an individual school, the problem must be considered in light of the larger school system context. This includes identifying and anticipating any significant changes, including the following:

These questions underscore the importance of understanding that any efforts to address school congestion problems must be considered in light of the larger system, and that congestion issues and your responses’ effectiveness must be reassessed and may need to be amended each year.

Driving Habits

When studying the issue in your local jurisdiction, it may be useful to conduct a survey of parents to learn how often they drive their children to school, their openness to other forms of transportation, and their perceptions of the incidence and severity of the congestion problem. In analyzing the problem, a survey of parents can shed light on why they take their children by car, including the following response categories:

If the chosen response to the problem is to reduce parental driving, such a survey can help in developing a response that speaks to parents’ motivations and concerns. Conducting a similar survey after implementing your response will also assist in your assessment of whether the response was effective (see “Measuring Your Effectiveness” below).

Other important questions to pose to parent drivers include the following:

A “windshield survey” posing similar questions to parents and other commuters stuck in congestion around schools may also be fruitful.

Current Responses

For guidelines on appropriate signs, see the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices at http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/Caltrans Traffic Manual.

Once you have gathered information on street patterns, traffic flows, and signs, a useful means of integrating all this information in a way that leads to potential solutions is to map the locations of these factors, either by hand or through the use of Geographic Information System software. Such mapping can be useful to understand the flows and nature of congestion within the larger context of the surrounding area.

At this point in the process, you should begin to develop a list of possible responses designed to address the underlying cause of your school traffic problem. It is often useful to survey parents, teachers, staff, and even students to obtain their feedback on which of the proposed interventions they like best. While the popularity of the response should not be the only criterion for its selection, if you have identified an array of equally effective responses, it is only logical to implement the one that most people will support, particularly because their compliance is critical to the interventions success. Such a survey not only serves to narrow down the list of possible interventions, but also will help to justify the response ultimately implemented.

Measuring Your Effectiveness

Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your efforts have succeeded, and suggests how you might modify your responses if they are not producing the intended results. You should take measures of your problem before you implement responses, to determine how serious the problem is, and after you implement them, to determine whether they have been effective. You should take all measures in both the target area and the surrounding area.(For more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see the companion guide to this series, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers.)

The following are potentially useful measures of the effectiveness of responses to school traffic congestion:

Responses to the Problem of Traffic Congestion Around Schools

General Considerations for an Effective Strategy

Your analysis of your local problem should give you a better understanding of the factors contributing to it. Once you have analyzed your local problem and established a baseline for measuring effectiveness, you should consider possible responses to address the problem.

The following response strategies provide a foundation of ideas for addressing your particular problem. These strategies are drawn from a variety of research studies and police reports. Several of these strategies may apply to your community’s problem. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem. Do not limit yourself to considering what police can do: carefully consider whether others in your community share responsibility for the problem and can help police better respond to it. The responsibility of responding, in some cases, may need to be shifted toward those who have the capacity to implement more effective responses. This is particularly true in the case of school congestion problems, as solutions typically rely on the leadership and cooperation of school staff, teachers, students, and parents. (For more detailed information on shifting and sharing responsibility, see Response Guide No. 3, Shifting and Sharing Responsibility for Public Safety Problems).

Specific Responses To Reduce Traffic Congestion Around Schools

Changing Transportation Modes

Many responses to the problem of school traffic congestion are designed to reduce the number of children taken to school in private vehicles. These efforts are often presented as environmentally friendly programs that increase physical activity among children, resulting in benefits far beyond that of reduced traffic congestion. With any of these programs designed to change parents’ and students’ behavior, incentives for participating as well as changes designed to make it easier to participate can go a long way toward achieving congestion reductions. Marin County, Calif., for example, implemented many of the responses described below to encourage children to walk or bike to school, and experienced a 50 percent increase in the number of children walking and biking and a corresponding decrease of 29 percent in car traffic around the school.18 Similar results have been achieved in Boston and Minnesota 19, as well as in jurisdictions throughout the United Kingdom20 and Canada.21

  1. Educating parents. You can educate parents about their children’s using alternative transportation modes to and from school, as well as the dangers and legal consequences of traffic violations, and ways that parents play a role in reducing congestion and increasing student safety by following the rules of the road. You can provide such information in the PTA newsletter or distribute it in fliers handed to parents while they are waiting in school drop-off and pick-up zones.
  2. Encouraging students to walk or bike to school. You could encourage students to walk or bike to school if the school curriculum integrates the health and environmental benefits of walking or biking to school into the school curriculum (e.g., encouraging pupils to consider the impact of different transportation choices on the environment as well as their own physical health). You can enhance such programs by enabling students to earn points and/or rewards based on how frequently they walk or bike to school.
  3. Encouraging carpooling. Likewise, parents would have an added incentive to carpool if you created a special express carpool lane, enabling participating drivers to get in and out of the school area—and on to their jobs or errands—faster.
    Programs such as Safe Routes to School employ tactics such as
adding crosswalks and crossing guards and encouraging parents to have their children walk or bike to school.

    Programs such as Safe Routes to School employ tactics such as adding crosswalks and crossing guards and encouraging parents to have their children walk or bike to school. Credit: City of Glendale, AZ

  4. Mapping out safe pedestrian routes. One such program is called Safe Routes to School, which is designed to “improve children’s health and that of the overall community by making walking and bicycling to school safer and easier.” This is achieved by mapping out the safest ways (e.g., those that avoid busy intersections and use sidewalks) that children can travel by bike or walk to and from school, adding crosswalks and crossing guards, and encouraging parents to have their children walk or bike to school. Most local police agencies have basic computerized mapping capabilities that they could use for this purpose. The city’s or county’s planning department can often provide an alternative source of mapping expertise.
  5. Implementing a “walking school bus” program. Under such programs, a route is identified similar to a bus route, but also selected with pedestrian safety in mind. Parents are recruited to “drive” the bus, walking along the predetermined route to pick up children who are registered by their parents to “ride” the bus and escort them by foot to the school. Student sashes, school bag tags, and bus stop signs are often used as part of the program, as are backpacks and lockers to make it easier for children to walk without having to haul a large volume of books and school supplies with them. Naturally, such programs work only in neighborhoods that are near (i.e., in walking distance) of the school.

    Similar to walking buses, cycle trains entail a group of parents’ and pupils’ cycling to school together. Safe biking routes are mapped out in advance, and school bags and lunch boxes are transported in a bike trailer pulled by a parent volunteer. Any biking program should include the installation of lockers or other ways to accommodate and secure the anticipated increase in bikes on school property.

  6. Instituting school busing. While this option is typically viewed as cost-prohibitive, using buses or minivans to transport children to school is nonetheless an effective means of reducing the number of children taken to school by car, as well as the congestion that accompanies that transportation mode. Instituting a busing program, however, must involve a consideration of when and where buses will load and unload. Otherwise, buses could end up contributing to a congestion problem rather than reducing it. Moreover, before initiating a new busing system, it may be useful to survey parents to confirm that they would use it.

    The source of many congestion problems stems from poorly planned drop-off and pick-up procedures, as well as parking-related physical design characteristics. Altering these rules and design characteristics can often resolve congestion issues with little impact to parents’ and students’ daily routines. In Plano, Texas, measures to reroute traffic through the designation of one-way streets, the synchronization of street traffic lights with school dismissal times, additional signs, and other physical design measures resulted in increases in traffic flow and a reduction in crashes around the school.22 In the Phoenix school system, implementing a school safety program that included changes to drop-off and pick-up procedures reduced congestion and yielded significant improvements to school safety across the state .

    See http://www.walkinginfo.org/cps/saferoutes_phoenix.cfm (accessed March 15, 2007).

Implementing Drop-Off, Pick-Up, and Physical Design Measures

  1. Altering drop-off and pick-up rules. You can reduce congestion considerably by altering the times during which parents can drop off or pick up their children. or by staggering bell times. However, parents who have multiple children at the same school, yet different drop-off and pick-up times, may discourage these changes. A related change would be to change or add drop-off and pick-up locations, encouraging alternative routes into and out of the school area so that drivers would not all congregate in one place. Instituting “valets” at drop-off locations, whereby school staff or volunteers escort children from car to school, can also expedite the drop-off process. You should implement any change in drop-off and pick-up procedures at the start of the school term to eliminate confusion, accompanied by clear and detailed written instructions.
  2. Strategically funneling traffic. You can minimize some types of congestion problems by directing different types of traffic to different locations on and around the school property. For example, you could locate staff parking behind the building, while buses pick up and drop off in one area and parents drop off and pick up their children in another area. These measures, however, are often not available to schools that do not have multiple areas serving these purposes, as well as those that have outgrown the neighborhoods in which they are located and therefore have little extra space to dedicate to strategic funneling. Indeed, in some situations, even if space were available to create new entry, exit, and parking locations, area residents might object to the reduction of green space caused by those changes.
  3. Establishing curbing and parking zones. Using curbing and signs to extend drop-off and pick-up zones may reduce congestion at the immediate school site. Creating additional temporary parking areas along with safe pedestrian routes from those areas to the school can also have an impact. Such pedestrian routes might involve creating new crosswalks and/or using a crossing guard. In addition, you could create no-parking zones to restrict street parking that might be adding to congestion and restricting student pedestrians’ visibility.
  4. Rerouting street networks. Often the simplest solution to the school congestion problem is to reroute streets to force drivers to seek alternative routes to and from the school. This is usually accomplished by creating one-way streets or erecting “no entry” signs on certain streets leading to the school, which might be in effect only during peak drop-off and pick-up hours.
  5. Synchronizing traffic lights. One simple approach to reducing school congestion is to examine traffic lights’ existing timing and to revise the lights’ timing to synchronize with school start and dismissal times. This measure naturally requires coordinating with your local traffic authority, and may not have an impact if the lights timing is not a source of the congestion problem to begin with.

Responses With Limited Effectiveness

  1. Enhancing the enforcement of existing traffic laws. As with similar, more “reactive” police measures, such as increased patrols, enhanced enforcement of existing traffic laws is likely to have a positive but short-term impact on the problem. As soon as traffic enforcement reverts back to preintervention levels, congestion is likely to increase again . However, if patrols are assigned strategically to increase presence during peak arrival and departure periods, they may serve as a very useful and effective complement to other problem-solving measures.

    See Response Guide No. 1, The Benefits and Consequences of Police Crackdowns, for further information on how intensive enforcement works.

  2. Increasing traffic fines. Often termed “double fines,” elevated traffic fines have been used to control speed in specified “safety corridors.” You could employ similar efforts to enforce zoning and parking rules designed to reduce congestion. However, evaluations suggest that signs indicating increased fines achieve little long-term impact.23

Appendix: Summary of Responses to Traffic Congestion Around Schools

The table below summarizes the responses to school traffic congestion, the mechanism by which they are intended to work, the conditions under which they ought to work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

Changing Transportation Modes
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
1. Educating parents Reduces volume of vehicle traffic …parents take ownership of the education process, persuading each other to seek alternative transportation methods for their children Parents’ fears about child safety and “stranger danger” must be assuaged; parental education campaigns, unless ongoing, are unlikely to achieve long-term effects on their own
2. Encouraging students to walk or bike to school Reduces volume of vehicle traffic …it is integrated into the school curriculum, rather than presented as a one-time, stand-alone effort Providing lockers or backpacks and limiting the number of items children have to take to and from school could facilitate compliance
3. Encourage carpooling Reduces volume of vehicle traffic …express carpool lanes are created, providing easy drop-off and pick- up, and rewarding carpoolers by enabling them to bypass congestion School administrators could play a role in encouraging carpooling by generating lists of neighboring students and distributing them to parents; some parents may have privacy concerns regarding sharing their children’s names and addresses with others
4. Mapping out safe pedestrian routes Reduces volume of vehicle traffic …it is combined with student and parental education campaigns (see above) Safe routes may differ by transportation mode, requiring different maps for walkers versus bikers
5. Implementing a “walking school bus” program Reduces volume of vehicle traffic …it has strong support among parents Requires a great degree of coordination and a dedicated team of volunteers
6. Instituting school busing Reduces volume of vehicle traffic …the bus loading and unloading zones are designed carefully; otherwise, buses may contribute to congestion Busing is very expensive and would require strong political support at the jurisdictional level; busing also requires the support of parents and an assurance from them that they would allow their children to be taken to school by bus
Implementing Drop-Off, Pick-Up, and Physical Design Measures
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
7. Altering drop-off and pick-up rules Eliminates peak volume times, reducing congestion …parents are alerted well in advance of any change You will need to make special exceptions for parents with multiple school-aged children; any carpool lanes would need to be exempt
8. Strategically funneling traffic Reduces congestion at key points …there is adequate space for alternatives Creating alternative parking and pick-up and drop-off locations may be costly; may reduce green space
9. Establishing curbing and parking zones Reduces congestion in drop-off and pick-up areas; improves pedestrians’ visibility, thereby reducing crash hazards …you use crosswalks and crossing guards to ensure student safety in walking to and from parking areas Any new parking or zoning schemes need to be stringently enforced
10. Rerouting street networks Reduces congestion …rerouting is planned holistically, considering traffic light timing, peak congestion times, and local residential concerns Requires extensive coordination with local traffic and planning agencies
11. Synchronizing traffic lights Reduces congestion …synchronization plans are designed within the larger context of residential and commuter traffic issues Can be costly
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
# Response How It Works Works Best If… Considerations
12. Enhancing the enforcement of existing traffic laws Deters driving or unsafe driving …enforcement is both random and ongoing Requires ongoing vigilance; otherwise, congestion problems quickly revert back to preintervention levels
13. Increasing traffic fines Deters parking, thereby reducing congestion, and deters unsafe driving …fines are stringently enforced Evaluations of similar schemes to control speeding indicate little if any long-term impact


[1] Matthews (1998); also see Cooner et al. (2004).

[2] HNational Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (2001).

[3] Derek Halden Consultancy (2002).

[4] Dickson (2000).

[5] Kearns and Collins (2003); Black, Collins, and Snell (2001).

[6] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (2006).

[7] National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (2006).

[8] TilleyDowns (1999).

[9] Hillman (1993).

[10] Granville et al. (2002).

[11] Derek Halden Consultancy (2002).

[12] Bradshaw (1995).

[13] Valentine (1996).

[14] St. Petersburg Times (2005).

[15] Davis (1996); Korecki (1999).

[16] Associated Press (1999); Wiser (2005).

[17] Oakes (2003).

[18] Appleyard (2003).

[19] Alexandria Health Department (2003).

[20] Department of Environment, Transportation, and Regions (1999).

[21] OBrien (2000); also see Better Environmentally Sound Transportation (2007).

[22] Plano Police Department (2004).

[23] Jones, Griffith, and Haas (2002).


Alexandria Health Department (2003). Safe Routes to School: Program Across the Nation. Alexandria, Va.: Cardiovascular Health Project.

Appleyard, B. (2003). “Planning Safe Routes.” Planning (May):34–38.

Associated Press (1999). “Officers Patrol School Grounds With Radar Guns.” The Topeka Capital-Journal, November 3, A6.

Better Environmentally Sound Transportation (2007). “Off-Ramp Program, a Student-Led Program Designed To Increase Walking, Cycling, Public Transit, and Carpooling to School.” http://www.best.bc.ca/programsAndServices/index.html (accessed March 16, 2007).

Black, C., A. Collins, and M. Snell (2001). “Encouraging Walking; The Case of Journey-to-School Trips in Compact Urban Areas.” Urban Studies 38(7):1121–1141.

Bradshaw, R. (1995). “Why Do Parents Drive Their Children to School?” Traffic Engineering and Control 36(1):16–19.

Cooner, S., K. Fitzpatrick, M. Wooldridge, and G. Ford (2004). Traffic Operations and Safety at Schools: Recommended Guidelines. Springfield, Va.: National Technical Information Service.

Davis, A. (1996). “Tight Squeeze: There’s a Space Crunch in High School Parking Lots.” The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, September 26, Metro, p. 1.

Department of Environment, Transportation, and Regions (1999). “School Travel \ Strategies and Plans: Case Studies Report.” London: Department for Transport. Available at http://www.dft.gov.uk/pgr/sustainable/schooltravel/localauthorities/schooltravelstrategiesandpla5746?version=1 (accessed March 15, 2007).

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Related POP Projects


The quality and focus of these submissions vary considerably. With the exception of those submissions selected as winners or finalists, these documents are unedited and are reproduced in the condition in which they were submitted. They may nevertheless contain useful information or may report innovative projects.

Operation Dawdle, Lancashire Constabulary, 2004

Reducing Traffic Congestion Around Barron Early Childhood School [Goldstein Award Finalist], Plano Police Department, 2004

School Zone Traffic Management 2000, Irvine Police Department, 1999