New EPA Study: Travel and Environmental Implications of School Siting

New study evaluates the relationship between school location, travel choices and the environment

Over the next few decades, communities making decisions about the construction and renovation of thousands of schools will be challenged to meet multiple goals — educational, fiscal, and environmental.

This study is the first to empirically examine the relationship between school location, the built environment around schools, how kids get to school, and air emission impacts of those travel choices.

This study finds that:
— School proximity to students matters. Students with shorter walk and bike times to school are more likely to walk or bike.
— The built environment influences travel choices. Students traveling through pedestrian-friendly environments are more likely to bicycle and walk.
— Because of travel behavior differences, school location has an impact on air-emissions. Centrally located schools that can be reached by walking and bicycling result in reduced air emissions from driving.

For some time, there has been a trend toward construction of big schools and requirements for large sites. Guidelines, recommendations, and standards that encourage or require building large schools on new campuses or discourage renovation are embedded in a variety of state and local regulations, laws and funding formulas. This study provides important information about the effect of school location on how children get to school. It shows that school siting and design can affect choices of walking, biking, or driving. In turn, these changes in travel choices could affect traffic congestion, air pollution, and school transportation budgets.

Click here to download the entire report (PDF)

You may also request copies of this report calling EPA’s National Service Center for Environmental Publications at (513) 891- 6561 and ask for publication number EPA 231-R-03-004. To access this report online, visit the Publications section of