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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).
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, California, 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.211. Educating parents. You can educate parents about their childrens 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.
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).7. 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.
§ See Response Guide No. 1, The Benefits and Consequences of Police Crackdowns, for further information on how intensive enforcement works.13. 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
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