The examples below illustrate how specific states or school districts have addressed different points mentioned in this guide. These examples are not necessarily considered to be "model" policies, as there seems to be little criteria to support what would be considered "model." Instead, the examples are intended to provide ways for readers to see how guidelines are put into practice. Please note that text within boxes in these examples are direct quotes from their guidelines and policies.
Colorado has produced guidelines for establishing a safe student school bus stop that provide points for transportation providers to consider when establishing locations for loading and unloading students. The Colorado guidelines address the following issues related to placement of school bus stops:
- Can the bus be seen by other motorists at a distance of 200 feet or four seconds at optimal speeds while the amber lights are activated in the corporate limits of a city or town? The distance is lengthened to 500 feet in rural areas.
- At what distance are the students and other motorists visible to the driver when approaching the stop?
- How do light conditions affect the visibility approaching the student stop? (sun rising and setting, background lighting — Christmas season, etc.)
- Is the school bus windshield free from cracks, pits and dirt?
- Terrain / Landscape:
- Hills and curves affect the location of a student stop. Locating a stop on a hill or curve is a dangerous option. Make every effort to locate stops in areas that afford the bus driver the greatest visibility when approaching the stop. Check that other motorists also have a clear view of the school bus at the stop.
- How do surrounding buildings affect what the driver can see when approaching the stop?
- Are there potential hazards from driveways (private or business)?
- Take into consideration any parked vehicles, especially recreational vehicles that may inhibit the drivers' view.
- Are construction zones affecting the stop in any way?
The Alabama Department of Education Pupil Transportation Section provides school districts with a combination of autonomy and guidance in determining distances between school bus stops. The guidelines include the following recommendations:
There are no regulations regarding the location of school bus stops, the maximum or minimum distance between stops, or the distance a student might have to walk to get to a designated stop. Such requirements are the responsibility of local school systems. Even so, the following statements are offered as guidelines by the Alabama Department of Education, Pupil Transportation Section.
Advantages of Frequent Stops
- Parents like to be able to see their children at the stop.
- Getting to a bus stop can sometimes be difficult, given lack of sidewalks, no shoulders on roadway, and density of traffic, etc.
- Fewer students at stops can mean less behavior problems and less possible property damage.
Disadvantages of Frequent Stops
- Most school bus fatalities occur while school buses are stopped to load/unload children. More stops mean greater potential for school bus fatalities.
- Stopping and starting creates more traffic hazards and delays, and more vehicle maintenance.
- More side roads would have to be included on routes.
- Routes take longer because of additional bus stops and loading time. This can require additional buses and personnel to transport all students.
Anoka-Hennepin School District #11, Minnesota
The Anoka-Hennepin School District #11 in Minnesota developed a student transportation policy that includes policies and procedures for school bus stop locations and procedures for determining hazardous roadways. Excerpts from its Student Transportation Policy manual are included below:
- Transportation Area / Non-Transported Area. Traffic safety factors and distance are the two primary criteria used to establish Non-Transported areas. The Non-Transported areas, less than 2 miles, are determined by measuring the distance, in the most direct route, from the home of the student to the nearest property line of the school of attendance. Distances are electronically calculated with the assistance of Edulog bus routing software that incorporates detailed mapping capabilities. The Edulog routing software is linked to AH Connect, with safeguards to protect this sensitive information. Parents/guardians can register on AH Connect, and receive a password that will enable them to access bus route information for their students. Bus routes are arranged according to geographic areas.
- Bus Stops. Whenever possible, bus stops will be located at the nearest corner or intersection to the student's home. Stopping at corners or intersections is generally safer due to the expectations of traffic. When a bus stops mid-block it can confuse motorists, whereas traffic anticipates the bus will stop or yield at the intersection. Students, especially in primary grades, tend to forget about pedestrian safety when in the proximity of their homes. In recent years metro student fatalities have occurred when young students disembarked the bus at house stops and were struck by cars. Also house identification is much more difficult for substitute drivers, causing the bus to arrive late to school. The number of bus stops on the bus route impacts the length of time students are on the bus and the number of buses required to provide this service. Bus stops will be located to maximize bus route safety and efficiency.
Bus Stop Locations And Procedures
- The bus routes may change each year based on the student population. Students may walk two to three blocks to the bus stop depending on the route structure and time schedule. Transportation Department guidelines for walking to a bus stop are .1 mile for kindergarten, .2 mile elementary, and .3 mile for secondary students. However, if it is more economical when developing bus routes to increase the distance from the home to the bus stop, these guidelines will not apply and students may walk longer distances to bus stops.
State guidelines for walking distances from homes to bus stops do not exist. The State requires that the school district provide transportation for all students who reside more than 2 miles from school. Every other decision relating to bus stop location and routing is left to the local school board.
- Generally, buses will not travel down cul-de-sacs unless the vehicle is picking up students with disabilities, because backing a school bus to turn around can be a safety threat to small children and property. A full sized bus needs 115 feet to safely turn around and the average cul-de-sac is only 90 feet. Also, individual stops at all homes would add considerable time to a bus route.
- Visibility from the home to the bus stop is not part of District criteria for establishing bus stops. Bus stops are collector points in the neighborhood. If a parent/guardian is concerned about watching their child at the stop they need to walk with them to the stop. Topics such as the "Danger Zone" in the district bus safety curriculum explain the correct method for students to enter and exit the bus at the corner.
Sections D. and E. were omitted here because they relate to optional uses of different light systems and are thus unrelated to the placement of bus stops.
- Bus stops should be located with clear visibility for 500 feet in both directions. Stops in residential areas where the speed limit is 35 mph or less may not be located within 100' of each other (State Law).
- Stops in or out of residential areas with speed limits exceeding 35 mph may not be located within 300 feet of each other (State Law).
- Most bus stop complaints received by the Transportation Department are requests to move the bus stop closer to the home or daycare, especially if the current stop is not within view of the residence. Some bus stops will not be located where the stop can be seen from the home. If this is a concern, the parent/guardian will need to make arrangements to supervise their child at the stop.
- The school district views the bus stop as an extension of the school grounds and will enforce all school district policies (i.e. bus discipline, bullying, harassment, weapons, tobacco, etc) at the bus stop.
- If a regular education bus stop is not active for a two-week period, the stop will be discontinued until the Transportation Department or the bus company is notified. If a student riding on special transportation does not ride for three days in a row (and does not call the bus company to cancel their ride for those three days), the stop will be cancelled until a parent/guardian has contacted the Transportation Department to reactivate the stop. Once notified of the need to reactivate a bus stop, it may take up to 3 school days to re-start the service at the stop, since the pickup times for other students might need to be changed.
Determining Hazardous Roadways
The Transportation Department and bus company staff meet monthly to discuss issues related to busing and the Edulog routing system. This group also does an annual review of roadways in the District that are deemed to be hazardous, where students are not assigned to a bus stop across the hazardous roadway.
The determining factor for designating a roadway as hazardous is a posted speed limit over 30 miles per hour. There may be exceptions allowed (where students are permitted to cross the road) if the traffic volume allows for safe crossing, regardless of the speed. These exceptions are presented to the Safety Committee for discussion and approved annually by the school board. A list of the designated hazardous roadways can be found in Appendix A, page 31, at the end of this [the Student Transportation Policy manual] document.
Brevard District Schools, Florida
The policies of the Brevard District Schools in Florida include a requirement that:
In order to help determine the most reasonably safe location for the area being served, the Brevard District Schools' Transportation Department developed a Brevard School Bus Route Survey form that includes a series of questions for their school bus drivers to answer about the school bus stops and road hazards. Questions on the survey form include the following:
- Are bus stops visible at least 200 feet in each direction?
- Are any of your bus stops too close/too far apart?
- Are areas available for students to wait at least 10 feet from the main roadway?
- If students must cross a roadway to board your bus, do they wait for your signal to cross?
- As you approach the bus stop are you able to see the waiting students?
- Do you have stops where motorists routinely run your stop signals?
- Do you have bus stops you believe are confusing to motorists regarding the Florida school bus stop laws?
- Do you have any bus stops you believe should be evaluated for safety deficiencies?
- Do you find students sitting right next to the road when you approach the stop?
- Do you cross railroad tracks on your school bus route?
- Are railroad crossing signaling devices (lights, gates, bells) available?
- Are you able to see at least 1000 feet in both directions at the railroad crossing?
- Are there any serious road hazards along your bus route?
- Are all appropriate sign and hazard notifications erected along your route?
- If you must cross a dual highway, is there sufficient space for your bus to be stopped in the median without blocking a travel lane?
- Are you required to back your school bus anywhere along your route?
The form also includes room for "General Bus Driver Comments." The completed survey forms can be used to help identify hazardous school bus stops as well has hazardous routes and rely on the bus drivers themselves to be able to identify problems with their routes and stops along the routes.
Fairfax County, Virginia
The Fairfax County Virginia School District developed a School Bus Stop Safety Evaluation Criteria rating system that is to be used to rate the desirability of an existing or potential school bus stop. With this detailed rating system, each stop is rated on each of 8 criteria, using a four-point scale that ranges in value from 3 to 0 and then a cumulative value is calculated for each stop based on those ratings.
An example of the manner in which this rating system is structured and used to rate the students' waiting area at a school bus stop follows:
Value = 3:
- The stop is in a residential neighborhood with a curbed street or a 10-foot buffer exists between the traveled portion of the road and waiting area when the speed limit is 30 mph or less. OR
- A deceleration lane and a curbed street or a deceleration lane and a 20-foot buffer exists between the traveled portion of the road and the waiting area when the speed limit is 35 mph AND the waiting area is on a sidewalk or asphalt path.
Value = 2:
- The street is curbed or a 5-foot buffer exists from the traveled portion of the road and waiting area when the speed limit is 30 mph or less. OR
- A deceleration lane and 10-foot buffer or deceleration lane and curbed street exist between the traveled portion of the road and waiting area when the speed limit is 35 mph. OR
- A deceleration lane and curbed street or a deceleration lane and a 20-foot buffer exist between the traveled portion of the road and waiting area. When the speed limit is greater than 35 mph. OR
- A physical barrier separates and protects students from traffic when the speed limit is greater than 35 mph AND the waiting area may not be on a sidewalk or asphalt path.
Value = 1:
- A 5-foot buffer exists between the traveled portion of the road and waiting area when the speed limit is 35 mph; the waiting area may or may not be a sidewalk or asphalt path. OR
- Students wait next to the road on a curbed street without a sidewalk or asphalt path when the speed limit is 35 mph or greater. OR
- A 5-foot buffer exists between the traveled portion of the road and the waiting area or the street has curbing.
- The waiting area is on a sidewalk or asphalt path.
- Posted speed is 40 mph
Value = 0:
- A buffer less than 5 feet exists between the traveled portion of the road and waiting area when the speed limit is 35 mph. OR A buffer less than 10 feet exists from the traveled portion of the road when the speed of motorists is 40 mph or more AND the waiting area may not be on a sidewalk or asphalt path