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School start times and traffic

TownePlan

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What if billions of dollars in highway expansion could be averted simply by modifying school start times? I believe it is not only possible, but probable!

First let me explain my experience. I live and commute in the Orlando Florida area . I noticed that the normal daily traffic congestion were much less during spring break and summer months. I first thought this might be due to parents not commuting during these times. I then thought that people didn't leave at consistent times when school was out. This seemed like a more likely cause. The same amount of people were still commuting, if not more, but at different times. This equates to less people on the road during peak times, and hence less congestion.

So what if school start and stop times were coordinated from work centers such that commuters would reach and leave work centers through a larger window of time.

I've proposed this to a few planners and while they thought it makes sense and could work, politically it world be difficult.

I personally think It could work. What do all of you think?
 
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DVD

Cyburbian
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I say start with being able to walk or ride your bike to school. What is wrong with parents driving their kids a couple blocks to the school? If the kid doesn't need a ride then that's one less trip.

Next maybe coordinate work days off with school days off. All this extra day off school crap really screws up the parents who now need to make special arrangements. I tend to think the reason there is less traffic during spring break is that parents are taking time off so fewer commuters.
 

Faust_Motel

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313
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There is a big black and yellow solution to this problem. Its literally the best and most broadly-available transit in the country.

I think a lot of the congestion associated with school drop off is that parents are adding that school destination to their existing journey to work, greatly increasing VMT.

Highway expansions will only induce demand anyhow so I'd say don't do them anyway. Make it so people figure out that driving everywhere all alone is really inefficient instead of heavily subsidizing it.
 

TownePlan

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I say start with being able to walk or ride your bike to school. What is wrong with parents driving their kids a couple blocks to the school? If the kid doesn't need a ride then that's one less trip.

Next maybe coordinate work days off with school days off. All this extra day off school crap really screws up the parents who now need to make special arrangements. I tend to think the reason there is less traffic during spring break is that parents are taking time off so fewer commuters.
There is also less congestion during the summer. I'm sure most parents dunny take the summer off of work. There have been studies that Reinforce the fact that volume increases during summer months, but congestion decreases. The only cause I see for it this is that the parents trips to work aren't structured around when their kids start school.
 

Doohickie

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School zones on major thoroughfares contribute to congestion. On my drive to work I go through school zone that, even though it is summer, still blinks yellow, slowing traffic to 20 mph. Most people know that school is out and nominally slow down to 25-30 mph. Even though they're going through faster than the 20 mph limit, the decrease in volume through that stretch means more people get caught at the traffic light in the middle of the school zone, leading to backups. I have early meetings twice a week so I can compare. Whether school is in or not, going through that stretch before the school zone lights go on takes about the same amount of time (it's probably 75/25 that I catch the green light). When the school zone lights are on, the percentage flips, whether school is in or not.

I'm not advocating doing away with school zones, but they clearly impede the flow of traffic (unnecessarily so in the summer when they are left on).

As far as coordinating work start times and days off, good luck with that. First of all, students get a lot more days off than most workers. Secondly, many, perhaps most, businesses do not work a straight 9-to-5 shift and stay open year round including most holidays. If you've ever worked retail, you know your busiest time of the year is when everyone else has off at Christmas time. And health and public safety jobs have to be staffed 24/7/365.

Also, many (most?) workers don't even have school-aged children, so trying to coordinate their schedules with school schedules is pointless.

And finally, many schools (public districts and private schools) don't have schedules that sync up, so again, trying to sync to a moving target is pointless. Here in Texas, the legislature plays around with the start and stop dates in an effort to maximize leisure industry profits to satisfy their lobbyist overlords and even then it's in a constant state of flux because no one can decide whether it's more profitable to have school let out before Memorial Day or start after Labor Day.

And that's just the stuff that comes off the top of my head without looking anything up. The thought of aligning school start and stop times to work shift times is a fool's errand.
 

glutton

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Well, there has been a lot of interest in recent years for schools (high schools specifically) have later start times based off a slew of research coming out about the effect of early start times on kids' brains and sleep deprivation. This is primarily for adolescent personal health reasons, but I always thought a wonderful side benefit of it would be more alignment of work and school timings. Right now if you don't take the school bus, parents generally do the school drop of first super early in the morning, and then go straight to work from there to get into the office by 8 or earlier (many even do the 7 - 3 workday just to align with the school...shudder can't imagine how hard that must be to have to get up so early and get your whole family ready to go and lunches packed!). Not looking forward to that aspect of parenting at all :0.

Also, unrelated note - it boggled my mind when I first learned that most urban school districts don't have public school buses. I grew up in a suburban school and we took the bus every day from K-12, except on the days we woke up late or had to go in early for before-school activities. Otherwise, my mom didn't have to drive us too much. I want to live and work in the City and raise my family that way when we eventually have kids, but it's really hard to give up the amenity of having a school bus come pick up right down the street. Saves an incredible amount of time, energy, and VMT. If you have to drop off your kid via car, then you're probably more likely to just keep going to work via car too instead of turning around and coming back home to drop off the car. Buh-bye, multimodal lifestyle dream :/.
 

DVD

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This is why we moved to a place within walking/biking distance to the grade, middle, and high schools. It's nice not having to drive the kids. Just kick them out the door.
 

Doohickie

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Also, unrelated note - it boggled my mind when I first learned that most urban school districts don't have public school buses. I grew up in a suburban school and we took the bus every day from K-12, except on the days we woke up late or had to go in early for before-school activities. Otherwise, my mom didn't have to drive us too much. I want to live and work in the City and raise my family that way when we eventually have kids, but it's really hard to give up the amenity of having a school bus come pick up right down the street. Saves an incredible amount of time, energy, and VMT. If you have to drop off your kid via car, then you're probably more likely to just keep going to work via car too instead of turning around and coming back home to drop off the car. Buh-bye, multimodal lifestyle dream :/.
Fort Worth most certainly has school buses. When we lived in Michigan (suburban Detroit) we had buses too. Not sure what cities you're talking about.
 

glutton

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Fort Worth most certainly has school buses. When we lived in Michigan (suburban Detroit) we had buses too. Not sure what cities you're talking about.
Suburbs generally do. Large urban cities haven't in my experience. City of Pittsburgh, City of Seattle, District of Columbia are some examples of places that don't.
 

kjel

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Suburbs generally do. Large urban cities haven't in my experience. City of Pittsburgh, City of Seattle, District of Columbia are some examples of places that don't.
I live in Newark, NJ. No busing AND kids aren't assigned to neighborhood schools either. Parents are 100% responsible for delivering their kids to school unless they can get there on the own. Middle and high school kids often take public transit to schools, but not all schools are near bus/light rail service.

Every morning I leave at 8:10am to deliver my little one to her school 1.5 miles away at 8:25-8:30 and then fight through 15-20 minutes of traffic to get to the highway the 7 miles to my job. It's not uncommon that I arrive at 9:30. I love summer break because I can make it to work before 9:00 most days as the traffic volume is greatly reduced.
 

Doohickie

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Suburbs generally do. Large urban cities haven't in my experience. City of Pittsburgh, City of Seattle, District of Columbia are some examples of places that don't.
Fort Worth has a bigger population than Pittsburgh, Seattle or DC. The school district has 87,000 students.
 
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Fort Worth has a bigger population than Pittsburgh, Seattle or DC. The school district has 87,000 students.
Seems to me density would have more to do with it than size as far as evaluating whether public transit could be a good alternative to school buses.
Fort Worth school district: 86,234 students over 210 sq mi = 410 students / sq mi
Seattle school district: 47000 students over 84 sq mi = 560 students / sq mi
It would be interesting to run a lot more numbers and find where the line seems to be when cities start using their current infrastructure to move students instead of adding more buses to the road.
 

Suburb Repairman

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Let's first diagnose the correct cause. School-related peak hour traffic at start/end times is a symptom, not a cause. The cause is the placement of newer & much larger schools in autocentric hinterland locations on parcels far too large. This is often the result of ignorant school funding formulas based on a pure per pupil system while ignoring documented student performance enhancement in smaller schools, as well as bad construction/renovation policies that favor new construction (and thus dumb greenfield relocation).

https://ilsr.org/rule/small-schools-vs-big-schools/

"Small schools may require higher levels of annual per pupil funding, but they are far more cost-effective. Small schools have higher graduation rates and, on a per graduate basis, they cost about the same or less than large schools. Vermont is one of a few states that recognize the effectiveness of small schools and provide additional financial support to maintain them."

"State and local policies often favor the construction of new, sprawling schools on the outskirts of town over renovating smaller, more centrally located schools. Examples of these policies include minimum acreage requirements (national guidelines call for at least 50 acres for a high school); state funding programs that support new construction and limit funding for renovation; and inflexible building codes designed for modern construction methods."


I believe this is the single largest contributing factor to traffic congestion in the urbanized areas of Texas--monster schools in dumbass locations.
 

Faust_Motel

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Small schools may require higher levels of annual per pupil funding, but they are far more cost-effective. Small schools have higher graduation rates and, on a per graduate basis, they cost about the same or less than large schools. Vermont is one of a few states that recognize the effectiveness of small schools and provide additional financial support to maintain them."

Sadly, there has been a big consolidation push in VT of late: https://www.vpr.org/post/final-act-46-plan-creates-11-new-union-school-districts-vermont#stream/0

I've watched my own district get swept up in "new big school fever" and the thing that pissed me off most was when the consulatant (from Texas because of course) published a map showing that an exurban location for the proposed new megaschool was in the "center of town." Well, yeah, geographically, but out in the sticks as far as the population center of town- really a very disingenuous map.
 

Bubba

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Off-topic:

...the thing that pissed me off most was when the consultant (from Texas because of course) published a map...
I get your complaint and I'm not quibbling with it at all. But, one of my favorite moments ever as a consultant was a city council member out west complaining in a meeting about agency having brought in me (from Georgia) as their consultant. One of the agency reps asked her who she was aware of locally that could do what I do...and crickets. :cool:
 

Faust_Motel

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Off-topic:



I get your complaint and I'm not quibbling with it at all. But, one of my favorite moments ever as a consultant was a city council member out west complaining in a meeting about agency having brought in me (from Georgia) as their consultant. One of the agency reps asked her who she was aware of locally that could do what I do...and crickets. :cool:
You gotta have qualified people, and they might not be local. Not a ding on Texas as a whole for sure, but the scales between there and here are just so drastically different. The consultant could not have seemed more out of touch. Had they looked at the comp plan they might have noticed their "center" was basically in a part of town slated for land preservation and super low density development with no transportation improvements.

That's perhaps another angle to the schools and traffic issue. I don't know what others experience, but for two institutions that deal with so many overlapping issues, it amazes me how siloed schools and municipalities can be from one another.
 

Doohickie

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I believe this is the single largest contributing factor to traffic congestion in the urbanized areas of Texas--monster schools in dumbass locations.
Again, I think Fort Worth is the exception to this rule. There are 19 high schools. Of the newest ones, 4 are small specialty schools with competitive admissions. One is a new suburban HS in an area of recent, continued growth that would fit your description, and one is a repurposed private campus in the close-in suburbs. Of the older high schools, they're pretty evenly sprinkled throughout the city.

For the purpose of sports, there are A through AAAAAA (6A) sized schools. Most of the Fort Worth High schools have 4A or 5A sized attendance (or smaller).

Actually, the sports angle is what drives the huge high schools. If you have 2000 students in your senior class, you have a better shot at winning the HS football championship against a school that has only 1000. So it drives up campus sizes to increase the pool of available athletes.
 
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TownePlan

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I live in Newark, NJ. No busing AND kids aren't assigned to neighborhood schools either. Parents are 100% responsible for delivering their kids to school unless they can get there on the own. Middle and high school kids often take public transit to schools, but not all schools are near bus/light rail service.

Every morning I leave at 8:10am to deliver my little one to her school 1.5 miles away at 8:25-8:30 and then fight through 15-20 minutes of traffic to get to the highway the 7 miles to my job. It's not uncommon that I arrive at 9:30. I love summer break because I can make it to work before 9:00 most days as the traffic volume is greatly reduced.
So i think many of you are suggesting that bussing students would help congestion.......correct? I think I agree. Since this would eliminate a stop, reduce the number of vehicles on the road and would have parents leaving at different times. That being said, i would still contend that coordinating school start times could further improve congestion.
 
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