What things contribute to traffic congestion at schools? Too many parents driving kids to school / or too many teenagers driving themselves Everybody arrives right before the bell rings Parents come before school dismisses and line up in the road Some schools don’t have enough on-site storage for carpool lines Mixing car and bus traffic Inadequate facilities for walking to school Unsafe conditions for bicycling to school Large school districts Schools located away from neighborhoods Schools clustered together Inadequate roadway network around the school Congestion on adjacent roadway
Efficient operation of carpool loading and unloading is determined by the attention given to it by a school’s faculty. Even within the same school system, we see wide variations at individual schools. The most efficient carpool operations can safely load a child in an average of 30 seconds from the time a platoon or cars begins to move into pickup position to the time it pulls away from the curb. We’ve seen inefficient operations take twice that long and the result is a very long queue of vehicles that takes longer to dissipate.
A thorough school traffic study will look at both on-site and off-site traffic operations. Usually there are needed improvements in both areas. On-site issues could include: Inefficient or unsafe carpool operations Conflicts between vehicles and pedestrians or bicyclists Mixing of bus and automobile traffic Inadequate parking facilities Circulation through the parking lot Inadequate access Off-site issues could include: School traffic causing congestion on adjacent roadways Poor intersection or street geometry Lack of sidewalks or bike paths Inadequate school zone signage Speeding in the school zone
Let’s look at a sample project that included many of these issues. Hayden schools – located on Alabama State Route 160 in Blount County Project was part of an larger project by Alabama DOT to widen SR 160 from two lanes to five lanes. School traffic was causing some immediate improvement needs on AL 160 that did not need to wait for the five-lane widening. Cluster of three schools within a ½ mile radius and a proposed fourth school located within 1 mile.
This is a list of items collected at the start of the project. These are typical of what we would normally collect on a school traffic project.
The most important element of the data collection phase is campus observations. Sain has a staff of nine traffic engineering specialists. We make sure we post enough people to observe all aspects of the morning and afternoon peaks. We watch. We ask questions. And we listen. On another project, I once road through carpool with a mother who had strong concerns and needed to know she was heard.
This illustrates the circulation pattern that was in place at the Hayden schools when we did our study in 2006. Notice the multiple access points.
The next three slides show conditions at the elementary, middle, and high schools.
In addition to looking at the three existing schools, we developed an access plan for the proposed junior high school which is now operating in the old high school building. This school is now in operation and is called Hayden Middle School. The school modified our suggested plan, reversing the west to east flow to work in an east to west direction.
There are some general goals we try always to keep in mind when developing recommendations for traffic handling at schools. First and foremost, we must make conditions safe for all users. We want to make things run as efficiently as possible, without compromising safety. Separating school and adjacent street traffic helps, as does separating automobile and bus traffic. We also want to make sure we accommodate alternate modes of travel like walking or biking to school.
Our recommendations for the Hayden schools were separated into short term and long term since the highway widening project would take several years to construct. Most of the things needed by the schools were accommodated in the short-term. The long-term recommendations were geared more toward the highway widening and its impacts.
The key recommendations was an alteration to the circulation pattern at the elementary and middle schools. The new flow plan concentrated all entering traffic to the middle and elementary schools at one intersection where turn lanes were added. The new circulation plan increased vehicle storage for the elementary school carpool line.
As I mentioned, the long-term recommendation focused mainly on the State Route 160 widening project. Also recommended was some continued monitoring of traffic flow to determine if adjustments to the ALDOT project would be needed for the junior high school.
The schools report that traffic flow on SR 160 and at the school entrances is a lot better. However, the SROs report that, with less congestion, speeds have increased on the highway. The school zone signage is adequate and there are speed limit flashers. More enforcement is probably needed.
Success in any traffic engineering project depends on three key areas: engineering, education, and enforcement. You need a good plan. Ideally transportation planning is a key ingredient of any new school design. Tackling it from the outset will save a lot of headaches later. But if that didn’t happen, it’s usually possible to retrofit an improvement. Education means helping users understand the plan. That’s done through road signage and striping, and through carpool instructions that are communicated to parents and bus drivers. If the first two keys are done well, the need for enforcement is minimized but never eliminated.
Sometimes it takes a willingness to admit that an improvement is needed.
Sain Associates Presentation at ASPMA Board of Directors Meeting
ASPMA Board of Directors Meeting November 18, 2008
Sain Associates• Founded in 1972 by Charles “Hack” Sain• Staff of approximately 70 professionals• Engineering capabilities: • Site/Civil Engineering • Traffic & Transportation Engineering & Planning • Surveying• Headquarters in Birmingham, Alabama• We have experience in a variety of market sectors including: – Education – Retail/Commercial – Industrial – Health Care – Residential – Governmentsain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Site Engineering• CAPABILITIES WE CAN PROVIDE TO SCHOOLS INCLUDE: – Site investigation and conceptual planning – Master planning – Site layout with horizontal control – Preliminary budgets and feasibility – Sanitary sewer/wastewater design – Hydrological and hydraulic design – Site grading and storm drainage design – Sanitary sewer rehabilitation – Flood studies – Water supply and distribution designsain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Traffic/Transportation Engineering & Planning• CAPABILITIES WE CAN PROVIDE TO SCHOOLS INCLUDE: – Conceptual planning – Traffic Impact Studies – On-site circulation & parking design – Traffic signal, roadway and intersection design – Signing and striping plans – Pedestrian and bicycle planning – Carpool operation assessmentsain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Surveying• CAPABILITIES WE CAN PROVIDE TO SCHOOLS INCLUDE: – Boundary Surveys – Topographic Surveys – ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys – Construction Staking – Real-Time GPS – Subdivision Platting – Roadway/Highway Surveys – Utility Surveyssain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Sain has provided professionalservices to the following school systems: Birmingham City Schools Hoover City Schools Mountain Brook City Schools Pell City Schools Tarrant City Schools Troy City Schools Trussville City Schools Blount County Schools Jefferson County Schools Morgan County Schoolssain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Let’s Talk Traffic What things contribute to traffic congestion at schools?sain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Good traffic flow starts at the front door!• A controlled carpool operation is essential• Right-side loading/unloading• Enough shelter to accommodate 6-8 cars• Avoid double lines if possiblesain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
On-site and Off-site Operations are Intertwinedsain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Case Study: Hayden Schools 3 schools located within ½ mile Hayden Junior High School Hayden High School Hayden Middle School All 4 schools located within il e m Hayden Elementary School ½ 1 mile ≈sain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
With all four of these schools located within a one-mile area of SR-160 . . .sain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
TRAFFIC CONGESTION! AM School Peak PM School Peaksain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Data Collection• Roadway network inventory• Meet with officials – School traffic flow plans (parents, buses) – Bell schedules – Manual traffic control – Existing/projected enrollment – Coordinate with ALDOT• Traffic counts• Historical traffic data• Historical crash data• Campus observationssain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Campus Observations– Parent drop-off/pick-up– Bus drop-off/pick-up– Driveway intersections– Manual traffic control– Problem areassain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Circulation Pattern Existing Traffic Flow Hayden Elementary School Hayden Middle School Hayden High School BUS FLOW SEPARATE NORTH Buses FROM VEHICLE FLOW iv e e Dr re High School n tT Be Elem. School Middle School d Roa o od Atw SRO ad SRO Ro ry er sF an Desain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Hayden Elementary School SRO stops both directions of SR-160 to let buses out Back of school looking EB Exit drive onto SR-160 looking NBsain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Hayden Middle School School staff stops parent pick-up/ drop-off for buses to cross to Hayden Elementary School West side of school looking SB West side of school looking NBsain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Hayden High School SRO stops both directions of SR-160 to let Hayden High School traffic outIntersection of SR-160 and Atwood Road looking NB Intersection of SR-160 and Atwood Road looking WBsain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Hayden Junior High School 2007-2008 Traffic Flow Hayden Junior High School Buses 4th Street SRO ad et ro re ail St XR in Ma CS ive Dr d oa il r Rasain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Goals for School Traffic – Make it Safe – Make it Efficient – Separate school traffic from through traffic as quickly as possible – Separate parent pick-up/drop-off and bus pick-up/drop-off – Plan for safe pedestrian and bicycle access (if applicable)sain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Short-Term Recommendations• ALDOT to create a state-funded project to add turn lanes and increase radius at intersection of SR-160 @ Bent Tree Drive• School to relocate traffic flow into Elementary School and Middle School to intersection of SR-160 @ Bent Tree Drive• School to widen drive between Elementary School and Middle School in sharp curve• ALDOT and School to monitor Hayden Junior High School trafficsain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Short-Term Recommendations Proposed Traffic Flow Hayden Elementary School Hayden Middle School Hayden High School NORTH START TWO-LANE Buses ONE-WAY (W/ GUIDE SIGNAGE) iv e e Dr WIDEN ROAD re IN CURVE n tT Be d Roa o od Atw SRO ad SRO Ro ry er TURN LANES, sF INCREASE RADIUS an Desain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Long-Term Recommendations• ALDOT to retain turn lanes and large radius at intersection of SR-160 @ Bent Tree Drive and other existing turn lanes in design of SR-160 widening project• ALDOT to require five-lane cross section in vicinity of schools• School to retain traffic flow recommended in short-term improvements (via intersection of SR-160 @ Bent Tree Drive)• ALDOT and/or School to make any necessary adjustments to SR-160 widening design or Hayden Junior High School traffic operations based on findings of monitoringsain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Did the recommendations work?Traffic flow is better!Now speeding is an issue.Need to monitor speedsand possibly increasespeed zone signage andenforcement.sain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Golden Keys to Safe & Efficient Transportation Engineering Make sure you have a good plan. Education Everyone needs to understand the plan. Enforcement Be willing to enforce the plan.sain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors
Try to get it right the first time. If you miss the mark, fix it!sain associates, inc.Consulting Engineers /Surveyors