Did you enjoy your commute last week? Did you find your normal 30 minute stop start drive was reduced to less than 20 minutes, with a straight run to the office? It's well known that the volume of traffic is noticably reduced during the school holidays. But it’s not just a congestion issue drivers face during the school term. This extra traffic also increases the risk of accidents around schools and exacerbates air quality problems, which in turn affects the health of the whole community.
When we consider congestion in our cities, we often focus on the commute to work taking longer, however as the reduced traffic during the school holiday period shows, there are significant benefits if we can make some changes. With over 130,000 children travelling by car to school everyday in Auckland alone, the opportunity that comes from addressing this is apparent.
While often we say it is ‘too difficult’, ‘too unworkable’ or ‘I will be late for work’ after dropping the kids off, is that a sufficient reason to put our children, our neighbours and wider community (including ourselves) at risk from poor air quality and traffic accidents?
While we can’t directly solve the problem of congestion across the whole road network, if we look to our local area, there are things we can do. Wellington Council for instance is looking at “Park and Stride” drop off areas which would require children to walk to school from identified parking areas away from the school gates. How far away would these need to be simply to encourage kids to walk or cycle to school?
I would suggest we should go further and copy what has been done in Edinburgh and London, where school streets are officially closed to traffic at the beginning and end of the school day. Do you think that would change our behaviour?
There are no simple fixes for congestion, but there are simple things we can all do to make our roads safer and travel easier if we just take the time.
Blog written by Matthew Noon, Associate Transportation Planner