Developing Operational and Safety Guidelines for School Sites in Texas

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The objective of a two-year study was to recommend school site planning guidelines for transportation-related elements such as site selection, general site requirements and design, bus operations, parent drop-off and pickup zones, driveways, turn lanes, signing and marking, parking, and pedestrian and bicycle access. The research team based these guidelines on a comprehensive review of existing guidelines and the results of field studies at school sites in Texas. Examples are provided of good practices and of practices to avoid for three of the more prominent guidelines. The guidelines are focused on transportation design, operations, and safety within school sites�”with a particular focus on the parent drop-off and pickup zones. A site plan review checklist based on the 21 consensus guidelines approved by the project advisory panel is provided. Texas Department of Transportation engineers, field crews, architects, and school district personnel can use this checklist to coordinate efforts and improve the safety and efficiency of school site access and traffic flow.

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Many schools have a designated student drop-off area for private vehicles, but the capacity rarely meets demand during peak drop-off times. To determine whether drop-off capacity could be effectively increased when school personnel direct traffic flow, a case study was performed at an urban elementary school. Total drop-off time per vehicle consisted of both the stopping time of the vehicle (the time it stopped for unloading) and the maneuvering-idle time. Mean stopping time was measured and calculated for representative samples during peak drop-off time in the morning. Stopping times ranged from 2 to 55 s. When the school principal was present and directed traffic, mean stopping time was reduced from 26.5 to 19.7 s. This reduction was statistically significant with p < .025. The mean maneuvering-idle time during the period of peak drop-off was estimated to be 33.3 s; with the principal guiding traffic, it was reduced to 28.1 s. Taken together, the mean drop-off time (stopping time plus maneuvering time) was estimated at 59.8 s without human guidance and 47.8 s with human guidance of traffic flow. This difference predicts an increase in drop-off capacity of 21.7% during the peak drop-off period. Dispatching school personnel to guide traffic flow during peak times can provide an efficient and cost-effective means to increase drop-off capacity at schools that do not have the space or cannot afford the capital expense to make major structural improvements to school access roads.
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