Traffic management

This page gives ideas for managing traffic flows inside the school gate, and ideas for making students’ journeys to school safer.

Creating a travel plan

One of the most effective ways to ease traffic congestion at schools is to reduce the number of cars coming and going from your school.

Boards of trustees can encourage students and staff to walk, cycle, scooter take public transport, ride the school bus, participate in a walking school bus or car pool to school.

Have a look at the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) website for ideas about getting to school.

Another way to manage traffic is to prepare a travel plan for traffic movement in and around the school, parking and pedestrians. Developing a travel plan with your community will get people thinking about alternative options for getting to and from school.

Complete the Traffic management checklist [Word; 92kb] before preparing the travel plan. Guidance on developing a travel plan is available at:

  • New Zealand Transport Agency, NZTA - provides a guide for developing school travel plans and organising a walking school bus; NZTA also provides some Safer Journeys for Schools guidelines to help parents, school staff, boards of trustees and students work towards improving the general road safety of their community.  The guide outlines how schools can identify risks in their immediate road environment and provides some practical solutions to addressing these concerns.
  • Safe Kids New Zealand - has resources for educators about keeping kids safe including child pedestrian safety
  • NZ Police - has a School Road Safety Education programme which teaches young people road safety skills.

Check with your local council as they often have information about safety on the road. For example, Auckland Transport has information about road safety, walking and cycling, and encouraging students to use alternative transportation; Christchurch City Council has a programme called Safe Routes to Schools which investigates road safety issues in school communities and develops strategies to encourage safe and active travel to school.

Improving traffic movement through the school

A good system for dropping off and picking up students will help manage traffic around and through the school. The system will depend upon the school, for example, if the school is located in an urban area with busy streets, coordinating traffic in and out of the school during peak times is critical, otherwise drivers are tempted to park illegally in the surrounding neighbourhood.

Illegal practices include double parking and parking on yellow lines, across driveways, and near crossings. Many drivers justify this behaviour because they are only parked for a short time and they usually stay with the car. However, this practice is irritating for neighbours and unsafe for other road users.

Traffic movement checklist

A good traffic system through the school includes:

  • car traffic flows in a clearly marked one-way direction
  • pedestrian access points located separately from car access points
  • the bus bay is separated from car and pedestrian access points
  • an off-street drop-off/pick-up zone
  • staff station at key points to manage traffic flow
  • car access separate from the car park.

If your school does not have land available to create an on-site drop-off/pick-up zone, you can contact the local council and ask for a dedicated kerbside access area on an adjacent street, if there are traffic issues.

An example of an efficient traffic system

An example of an efficient traffic system.

Other ideas for improving the flow of traffic include:

  • staggering start and finish times for different year groups
  • having staff to manage drop-offs and pick-ups at peak times will encourage cars to move along and not park.

Paying for work to improve traffic systems

Boards can use Five Year Agreement (5YA) funding for work to improve traffic systems on their school site. Work needs to be planned in the 10 Year Property Plan (10YPP), and budgeted within the available 5YA funding.

Car parking

Boards of trustees should have a parking policy about who can use the car parks on the school site. The policy will usually provide for staff and some visitors' car parks. It is likely that there are not enough parks for students at a secondary school, which can create congestion in the neighbourhood.

Schools can to talk to their local council, including parking enforcement officers familiar with the area, for ideas about managing the school’s parking issues.

New car parks

The need for new or upgraded car parks may be triggered by new teaching spaces for roll growth space. In the new teaching spaces budget, boards are given a site works allowance for each roll growth classroom to pay for new car parks.

The Ministry does not have a policy on the number of car parks schools should have, but local councils may have requirements in their District Plans that kick in when the school applies for building consent for a roll growth room or other type of project. The council may require a traffic impact assessment.

If the costs of new parks exceed the site works allowance, either because of the number required by the council or their cost, then additional funding will be considered. If the board wants car parks in excess of the council requirement, this must be funded through 5YA.

Special events – parking

Special events can cause parking problems. Ideas to manage these problems include:

  • encouraging people to walk, car pool or use public transport
  • opening up some of the grounds, such as playing fields or tennis courts, to provide extra parking
  • arranging the use of nearby parking facilities
  • arranging the use of remote parking facilities and provide shuttles to the event
  • employing staff to direct traffic.

Traffic impact assessments

When a school applies for a building consent for a new building project the council may ask for a traffic impact assessment.

The council will want to know if the proposed project will generate extra traffic and a need for additional parking, and how the school intends to manage the changes in traffic or parking.

For larger projects, the council may require a professionally-prepared traffic impact assessment with an engineer’s report. Ask your council for names of companies who carry out these assessments or search the internet for traffic assessment consultants.

Traffic requirements vary depending on what the council has in their district plan. Some councils may require more parking spaces to be provided and some may have traffic requirements depending on the educational use, breaking them down by primary, secondary and tertiary institutions. Other councils may have more general requirements.

Schools will have to convince the council they are managing parking and traffic flows - having a good travel plan and traffic system will help. Boards should ensure their school community are not causing traffic and parking problems for neighbours because those neighbours may object to a school’s building consent application.

Traffic management checklist

The following checklist will be helpful:

  • before starting the travel plan
  • for use by the professional consultant hired to prepare a traffic impact assessment - the assessment should address these issues as a minimum and providing this information will reduce the time and therefore cost of a consultant.
Site data Y/N Comments
1. Is there an existing School Travel Plan?   If the answer to these questions is no, is anything else being done to reduce the car trips to and from the school?
2. Is there an existing Safer Routes programme?    
3. Do you know the road types/traffic volumes?   Check with the council for this information.
4. Is vehicle speed on surrounding streets an issue?   Traffic calming measures such as speed bumps may be used to slow traffic
5. Is there an existing “school zone”?   40km/h school zones were developed to improve safety by raising awareness of children and decrease both the likelihood of a crash and the severity should one occur.
6. Is there a known crash history?   Consultants can provide detailed information on recorded crashes, but schools often have information about near misses or minor crashes

What is the current “journey to school” mode split (approximately):

  • for staff
  • for students
  The basic modes that should be covered are: walking, cycling, passenger transport, private car alone, and private car with others.
  Access and circulation   Comments
1. How many accesses are there currently?   This information is important when an increase in traffic is likely.  Additional movements should not be encouraged through access with poor visibility. This will be picked up if a traffic impact assessment is required.
2. What is the visibility like from the accesses?  
3. Are the accesses controlled in any way?   Can access be locked and made only available for maintenance use or out of peak time use.
4. Are there existing safety or congestion issues at the accesses?   Observe the operation of the accesses, both outside and inside the school boundaries. Addressing a congestion issue early could save time in the future.
5. Are there any on-site circulation issues?   For example, do buses have to reverse when on-site? Are there narrow sections that operate as one way?
6. Are pedestrian or cycle access points away from main vehicle accesses?   Separating these access points can reduce the chance of accidents.
  Parking on the site   Comments
1. Does the existing school meet the District Plan parking provisions?   If the school is below the Councils parking standard already, a change requiring consent may trigger a review of the provision.
2. Is parking clearly marked and actively managed?   Regardless of the number of spaces, active management of parking can increase efficiency and alleviate some issues.
3. What policy exists around parking at school (on-site)?  
4. Is there a dedicated drop-off facility?   Separating drop-off from parking can improve the traffic flow.
  Off-street parking   Comments
1. Does the school have a policy for parents about parking at school?   When parking issues arise, communicate the schools expectations regarding parking to the school community. This could save time and reduce problems in the future.

Is there any monitoring of parking in streets surrounding the school?

3. Are there existing complaints from residents?  
  Other issues to consider   Comments
1. Can start/end times be staggered?   Staggered start/end times reduces congestions.
2. Is there any school policy on access and parking?
And policies for:
  • Cycle use?
  • Pick-up/drop-off?
  • Students driving?
  Providing clear rules can reduce problems.
3. Is the curriculum used to discuss travel to school?   Increasing student awareness of traffic management can help ease any problems.  
4. Is there active communication between the school and parents about travel choices?   Make parents aware of their choices and the positive action that the school is taking to address access and traffic issues.  

Content last updated: 21 May 2015