Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

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 No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best If…Considerations
1.Educating parentsReduces volume of vehicle traffic…parents take ownership of the education process, persuading each other to seek alternative transportation methods for their childrenParents' 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 schoolReduces volume of vehicle trafficit is integrated into the school curriculum, rather than presented as a one-time, stand-alone effortProviding lockers or backpacks and limiting the number of items children have to take to and from school could facilitate compliance
3.Encourage carpoolingReduces volume of vehicle trafficexpress carpool lanes are created, providing easy drop-off and pick- up, and rewarding carpoolers by enabling them to bypass congestionSchool 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 routesReduces volume of vehicle trafficit 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" programReduces volume of vehicle trafficit has strong support among parentsRequires a great degree of coordination and a dedicated team of volunteers
6.Instituting school busingReduces volume of vehicle trafficthe bus loading and unloading zones are designed carefully; otherwise, buses may contribute to congestionBusing 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 No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best IfConsiderations
7.Altering drop-off and pick-up rulesEliminates peak volume times, reducing congestionparents are alerted well in advance of any changeYou will need to make special exceptions for parents with multiple school-aged children; any carpool lanes would need to be exempt
8.Strategically funneling trafficReduces congestion at key pointsthere is adequate space for alternativesCreating alternative parking and pick-up and drop-off locations may be costly; may reduce green space
9.Establishing curbing and parking zonesReduces congestion in drop-off and pick-up areas; improves pedestrians' visibility, thereby reducing crash hazardsyou use crosswalks and crossing guards to ensure student safety in walking to and from parking areasAny new parking or zoning schemes need to be stringently enforced
10.Rerouting street networksReduces congestionrerouting is planned holistically, considering traffic light timing, peak congestion times, and local residential concernsRequires extensive coordination with local traffic and planning agencies
11.Synchronizing traffic lightsReduces congestionsynchronization plans are designed within the larger context of residential and commuter traffic issuesCan be costly
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
Response No.ResponseHow It WorksWorks Best IfConsiderations
12.Enhancing the enforcement of existing traffic lawsDeters driving or unsafe drivingenforcement is both random and ongoingRequires ongoing vigilance; otherwise, congestion problems quickly revert back to preintervention levels
13.Increasing traffic finesDeters parking, thereby reducing congestion, and deters unsafe drivingfines are stringently enforcedEvaluations of similar schemes to control speeding indicate little if any long-term impact