Tips and Tools to Select Safe Bus Stops

Pupil transporters recommend considering everything from whether to use mid-block stops or corner stops to avoiding situations where students must cross a busy street to ensuring that the bus has enough room to maneuver in the area. Staff input and routing software can assist in this task.

Kerry Somerville says a day he’ll never forget is when he received a call that two students had been killed near one of his operation’s school bus stops. At the time, Somerville was the assistant transportation director at a school district in Alaska.

“[Following the accident], I got calls almost daily from one of the students’ parents asking me why I killed her child,” he says. “It was her contention that if the stop was in a different location, the accident never would have happened.”

Now involved in the supplier segment of the pupil transportation industry as director of business development at U.S. Computing Inc., Somerville says he is adamant with the transportation personnel at school districts and bus companies that he works with about how important bus stop location is in ensuring student safety.

What to consider with bus stop placement

Where possible, many operations try to situate their school bus stops in residential neighborhoods, off of major thoroughfares and as close to students’ houses as possible. Such is the case at Queen Creek (Ariz.) Unified School District #95.

Director of Transportation Edd Hennerley says that the routing software his operation uses — Routefinder Pro from Transfinder — helps in these efforts. The software identifies where each student lives, and then Hennerley and his team can identify that a stop needs to be established where there is, for example, a cluster of 10 students.

“We can specify what roads we don’t want the stop to be on,” Hennerley adds. “The software will then show us the closest location for a stop that’s not on those roads. We also have the option to place students at a stop other than what the program suggests.”

Joseph Rossi, director of global sales at Transfinder, adds that the company’s software keeps a table of all the bus stops that the user can edit, and the user can keep specific notes about each stop. In Transfinder’s newest version, the user can also include documents, such as a discipline report from students fighting or parent complaints of vandalism, for each bus stop.

Corner stops versus mid-block stops

The range of environments in which a district or bus company provides service will often dictate whether a stop is placed in the middle of a block (mid-block) or on the corner. John Fahey, senior consultant at Tyler Technologies and past assistant superintendent of service center operations at Buffalo (N.Y.) Public Schools, says that since Buffalo is an urban environment, Buffalo Public Schools used corner stops, explaining that students would wait as the bus stopped at the beginning of the intersection.

He notes, however, that mid-block stops have advantages. “You don’t have an intersection there, so you might have less traffic to worry about.”

Carol Karl, safety coordinator at Illinois Central School Bus in Bloomington, Ill., is in favor of mid-block stops, and it is a practice that Illinois Central School Bus upholds.

“If you’re at a mid-block location, the bus, by virtue of its stop arm and lights, can control the traffic,” she reasons. “If you’re doing corner stops, you’re only controlling one street of traffic — you can’t control the other street.”

With Trapeze Group’s routing software, VEO Transportation, users can create a corner stop or an address stop, according to Steven McKinley, operations manager, school division. Users then have access to alternate stops that are turned on and off automatically based on safety parameters that the users have set.

“They’re turned on and off based on whether the street has sidewalks, if the students can cross at intersections and other safety policies and parameters that have been set,” McKinley explains. “It helps establish the options for traveling to or from that bus stop safely.”

U.S. Computing’s program has tools that allow the user to do analysis to see how far students are walking to stops, and the software can create safe walking paths for students to get to and from the stops.

EDULOG President Jason Corbally says that with mapping technology becoming so widely used, from a county’s GIS agency EDULOG can get data on high-crash corridors, and that data can be incorporated into the company’s routing software, which can help operations in deciding bus stops’ placement.
“They also carry data of where pedestrians most often get hit by cars,” Corbally says of a county’s GIS agency.

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