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Common Guidelines for the Location and Design of School Bus Stops

Monday October 8, 2018


Millions of school children travel to and from schools on a daily basis in school buses during a school year. The safety of students is a matter of high concern for both school authorities and parents.

This post provides some information on the common guidelines related to the location and design of stops for buses run by various schools.

Guidelines for Deciding the Location of School Bus Stops

The first step is definitely deciding the routes for the school bus. Once the routes have been finalized, the next step is to decide the location of each school bus stop along these routes, taking into consideration the various aspects that have been listed below:

  • Special guidelines required for  kindergarten  children like picking them up from their door-steps
  • Choosing the location of school bus stops on the key arterial roads of the city or town
  • Transportation in danger zones marked as “no transport zone”
  • Locating stops in dead-end streets
  • Locating stops at places midway between residential blocks or at corners
  • Closeness to railroad crossings
  • Adequate visibility

There is an intimate link between school bus routes and stops. This is because the characteristics of one impact the other.

For example, a route may have a busy road segment and a stop may have to be necessarily located in this segment. Students waiting at bus stop will definitely have to deal with the heavy traffic on the segment.

Keeping in mind the street-side things like the condition of the road from where the students board and alight school bus and ensuring a safe environment for children, consider the following aspects whenever possible.

  • Route school buses through roads with lower traffic speeds and volumes
  • Avoid roads with multiple lanes where the risk of injury for pedestrians is very high
  • Select roads that have sidewalks/designated pedestrian walkways which are different from the roadway/traffic; if this is not possible select roads with adequate space so that children can walk along the roadway and reach the stop
  • Avoid/limit the stops that necessitate the school buses to make a left/right turn along the route depending on whether right hand or left-hand driving is practiced
  • Avoid stops that necessitate backing up; if backing up cannot be avoided, make sure that the students are picked up before backing and during the return trip the children should be dropped off only after backing up so that the bus can be driven in the forward direction
  • Avoid railroad crossings as much as possible; if it is not possible to do that ensure the presence of signage and crossing arm protection
  • Select stops that have a high level of visibility for both drivers and pedestrians; the sight distance should be sufficient for both the students waiting at the stop and bus drivers

When it comes to the sight distance, some of the factors that have an impact are:

  • Sunrise/sunset times – It is better to avoid locating stops in such a way that the buses are forced to face into the sun at pick-up/drop-off times
  • Curves
  • Trees and vegetation

Guidelines for Designing School Bus Stops

When designing school bus stops some of the key aspects to be kept in mind are as follows:

  • Opt for the safest areas where students can wait for and get into and off of the school bus
  • Choose “near-side” stops as much as possible
  • Design should minimize the need for crossing the road to board or after alighting from the bus; as much as possible the need to cross multi-lane roads must be minimized
  • Ensure adequate lighting is available; if children have to wait during hours when the light is low, the school bus stop must be close to a street light/ other light sources as much as possible
  • Ensure adequate waiting space for both students and parents; the waiting place must be at least 12 feet away from the bus but the bus class and sight distance should be kept in mind
  • Consider the environment around the school bus stop; parks and commercial businesses both have their own benefits and drawbacks; they may confer safety as drivers might expect the presence of pedestrians in the areas but they can distract children
  • Design school bus stops in such a way that the children remain protected from vagaries of nature weather

On the basis of the geographical region, some of the aspects to be kept in mind are:

  • Design stops in such a way that shade is available without sacrificing visibility
  • Avoid areas that will reduce the visibility/access because of changes in weather conditions
  • Avoid snow drift areas that reduce the visibility of the bus or access to the school bus
  • Take into consideration the number of children that have to be picked up from a school bus stop; the presence of many students might confer safety, but it can increase the chances of behavioural problems

The common guidelines outlined in this post are focused on preventing traffic-related injuries to students using the school bus to travel to and from their schools. Students, just like all other community members, face risks of assault and other crimes.

Many of the other non-traffic issues addressed by transportation policies such as proximity to bars, liquor stores, and adult entertainment, among others are not dealt with in this post.

However, following the guidelines when designing and locating school bus stops can greatly improve the safety and security of school children.

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