Epiphany School Circulation Changes

Development Type:         Private Elementary School
Services Provided:          Operations Evaluation
Client:                                   Epiphany Catholic School

School traffic represents one type of interesting project traffic engineers can get to review in their careers. A sleepy site may see little to no traffic for 23.5 hours a day and then – boom, everything goes crazy for 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon. Within this short burst of high intensity traffic, we have the normal traffic frustrations of everyone wanting to move quickly, parents keenly aware of the safety of their kids, and younger students who may act unexpectedly around traffic (although to be fair, we’ve all seen adults make bone-headed decisions too).

We’ve stepped into these situations many times and have generally been successful in identifying issues and developing individual solutions to improve safety and save time. Our most recent example was working with Epiphany Catholic School in Coon Rapids, Minnesota. The Church of the Epiphany provides a large campus that encompasses the church, the school, senior housing, and a cemetery. The school serves pre-kindergarten through 8th grade. Parking for the school is the same large lot used for Sunday services. Within this context, morning and afternoon school traffic operations had become a bit hectic.

Working directly with the school, we reviewed the existing operations and provided ideas on how to improve safety and efficiency. Following our general process, we first observed traffic operations to understand better how things worked today and identify issues. For this site, we could clearly see too much happening at once in the same area. The answer to alleviate the issues was to provide a separation of travel modes – keep the buses apart from drop-off/pick-up traffic apart from parking maneuvers. Our challenge was accomplishing separation in a large parking lot without permanently impacting the infrastructure since the lot was used for general church services as well.

So, what did we do? Conceptually, we wanted to segregate pick-ups/drop-offs from parking vehicles and bus operations. We wanted one-way circulation to reduce conflicts further. We also wanted to push drivers away from the building to the back of the lot if they did not follow the procedures. Here are the highlights of our plan:

+ Use barriers, cones, and other temporary items to separate the parking lot into two distinct areas: one for bus operations adjacent to the building with parking provided behind it and one for the drop-off/pick-up activity also close to the building.

+ Create one-way flow in each area to reduce conflicting movements and keep the traffic patterns simple.

+ Using staff and volunteers wearing safety vests, provide a procedure for drop-off/pick-up traffic to assist getting kids into and out of cars as well as maintain an orderly flow for safety and efficiency for all.

The accompanying graphics show the basic morning and afternoon plan set-ups. Along with providing the procedures for staff to follow, we encouraged the school to provide detailed information to parents along with noting expectations to follow those procedures. The school implemented our plan earlier this month and is now continuing to fine tune the basic plan as they observe the changed operations.

Everyone seems to be pleased with the outcome, noted by the principal in her September letter, “So many of you have stopped by to thank us for the changes made to increase student safety and security…”

We’ve been told the new procedure has cut the afternoon procedure from about 30 minutes to 15 minutes for the approximately 110 parents who pick-up children in the afternoon.  Conservatively – saving 10 minutes per day for 100 parents for 160 school days ends up saving more than 2,600 hours of parent time per year.

Spending a day to develop the traffic flow plan for the Epiphany school represents a very successful project to us!