TCCS fails our schools

Evelyn Scott School, Denman Prospect, Molonglo Valley, ACT.

A demonstration of a car centric culture is the preference to duplicate arterials rather than fix the infrastructure around our schools. Good local road infrastructure is what makes our suburbs walkable and rideable. For children to walk or ride to school we need good and safe infrastructure within a kilometre of all schools. First, we need to make the roads safe for kids, and only then will parents think about other alternatives to driving children to school.

The Standing Committee on Education and Community Inclusion’s Inquiry into Managing ACT School Infrastructure in Report 3 made the following recommendation.

Recommendation 31

5.109 While there is a glaring need for better drive-through and ‘kiss-and-drop arrangements’ several schools have experienced only negligible improvements in traffic and parking from the traffic management plans and active travel routes developed by Transport Canberra City Services. 233

Managing ACT School Infrastructure, Standing Committee on Education and Community Inclusion, May 2022, Report 3, 56.

The recommendation was the result of the testimony of Mr David Matthews, Executive Group Manager, Education Directorate to the Inquiry into the management of ACT school infrastructure, Standing Committee on Education and Community Inclusion, Hansard 7 March 2022.

MS LAWDER: My question is about kids getting to school, and specifically about parking and drive-through arrangements, and what changes you may be making to make it easier. I understand that we encourage active travel and those types of things, but I hear over and over again about parking, especially on rainy days. I know we do not necessarily want to provide more parking, but when you are designing a new school these days, what changes do you put in place to enable a better drive-through, or kiss-and-drop arrangements, and that type of thing?

Inquiry into the management of ACT school infrastructure, Standing Committee on Education and Community Inclusion, Hansard 7 March 2022, 134.

Ms Berry: Mr Matthews might be able to describe some of those opportunities.

Mr Matthews: Ms Lawder has accurately described one of the challenges, which is that there are peak periods every day, at the beginning and end of a school day, where a lot of parents want to access car parks and pick up their children by car, as well as an increasing preference and desire to have active travel. We try to meet all of those requirements.

Certainly, we want to encourage active travel as much as possible. As well as building things like bike infrastructure, we also provide parents with information about alternative drop-off points, so that they do not necessarily have to come to the front door of the school to drop their kids off. There might be another location nearby which is a short walk down a bike path, or they can access the school from an alternative car park. We want to provide as many of those options as possible to reduce the pressure at those key points of the day.

We work very closely on this with Transport Canberra and City Services, as part of their school travel program. They help us to work with individual schools to come up with a transport plan which does the things that I have described—the alternative drop-off points, active crossing supervisors, and making sure that we can make the environment very pedestrian friendly.

Ms Lawder refers to “kiss and drop”, which is a really important principle. We want parents to be able to drive in to the school, to be able to safely exit their children from the car and say goodbye to them, and to be able to keep moving, without necessarily either parkinginterruption in sound recording. They are a lot of the design issues that we are looking at in terms of the way that we are building our new car parks and having regard to the flow of traffic through our individual car parks.

Definitely, safety is the most important criterion at that stage. Also, in a COVID environment, things like cohorting, for example, are helping to reduce some of that pressure, because there are different entry and exit points to the school for different cohorts. So there is reduced pressure on those single points of access at the front, normally, or through the car park.

Every school in Australia would certainly talk about some challenges and pressures at bell time, in terms of car parks and getting children safely in and out of school. It is a very key focus of all of our schools, and it requires all of those measures to make sure that we provide choice and reduce as much pressure as we possibly can. Car parking is a standard or a formula that we are aiming to meet. We want to make sure that we have the right amount of car parking to meet the school requirements, while not overinvesting in blank concrete which is only used at those key drop-off and pick-up points. Again, it is a balance in terms of—interruption in sound recording.

MS LAWDER: It can also be an issue for people trying to come out of surrounding streets at those similar times. If you are trying to turn right, and there is a solid line of traffic coming from the school, it is very frustrating for nearby residents as well. Again, what sort of work is done in planning to try to ameliorate these sorts of issues?

Mr Matthews: That is a very good point. Ms Attridge might want to add to my brief

Inquiry into the management of ACT school infrastructure, Standing Committee on Education and Community Inclusion, Hansard 7 March 2022, 135.

words. When we are thinking about the placement of our schools, when we are building new schools, we absolutely consider traffic, and do traffic management studies to identify what we think will be the traffic impact. Obviously, even things like school traffic zones, 40 zones, are designed to moderate and temper traffic and to signal to people when those peak periods will be.

We absolutely do understand that at those very peak periods there is some impact on local communities. Over time, local communities tend to understand that and avoid those areas if they possibly can. We are talking only, at peak periods, for half an hour to an hour at most, at the beginning and the end of the day, so they are very concentrated periods of time.

MS LAWDER: One of the schools that we visited was at Amaroo, and it is located next to a Catholic school. Are there plans to do similar things? Can you use the other school’s car park for pick up and drop off if they start and finish at different times? Are those sorts of arrangements possible?

Mr Matthews: Neighbouring schools tend to have good communication and relationships to do things like coordinating their bell times so that there is a slight difference in those bell times, and therefore reduce pressure at those peak periods. Those are the sorts of strategies that are used.

Non-government schools are also experiencing some—interruption in sound recording—at pick up and drop off, so it really is about sharing where that is possible, and just being as patient as possible where required. I am not sure whether Ms Attridge wants to add to my answer.

Ms Attridge: We have taken the opportunity to learn from some of the existing arrangements in established schools and have used those traffic and car parking impacts to inform responses for new school builds or new infrastructure, including car parking. Traffic is a key issue that we plan around. We have developed siting guidelines to inform any new school developments that we have shared with other key agencies that we work with in this space, including EPSDD and Transport Canberra and City Services.

A recent example of the collaboration that we undertake in traffic impact assessments and studies is planning for new schools in the Gungahlin region; and we have recently worked with Transport Canberra and City Services to develop a memorandum of understanding to change and improve car parking arrangements at Dickson College for people using that facility. We are taking a collaborative approach and reflecting on

Inquiry into the management of ACT school infrastructure, Standing Committee on Education and Community Inclusion, Hansard 7 March 2022, 136.

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