How We Got to School A Study of Travel Choices of Christchurch Primary School Pupils
Thesis DisciplineTransportation Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Engineering in Transportation
There has been a noticeable swing towards school pupils being driven to and from school, and away from active modes like walking and cycling, in recent decades. This has had a number of side effects. Less reliance on active modes of transport has been a contributing factor in the reducing levels of physical activity for school children. Traffic volumes associated with school trips have also increased. This increased has tended to contribute to an increase in traffic congestion, adverse environmental effects and reductions in levels of sustainability. School trip traffic contributes specifically to congestion at school gates. Schools have been identified as having significant effects on the transportation system adjacent to them. Schools which seek Resource Consents for new or changed activities are often being required to take measures to mitigate their adverse effects The purpose of this study is to explore the factors contributing to primary school pupils' travel choices. This will help to identify travel choice patterns which may, in turn, be useful in developing policies and planning initiatives which contribute to achieving an efficient and sustainable transport system. A range of literature relevant to school and general commuting travel demand was reviewed. A case study involving the pupils of twenty two Christchurch primary schools was carried out. Pupils and their parents were surveyed to establish mode choices and the factors influencing those choices. The study found that between 55% and 60% of pupils surveyed travel to and from school by car. 30% to 35% walk or scooter, and 5% to 7% cycle. This compares with 34% travelling by car in the late 1980s. In addition, a greater proportion of those pupils who walk, scooter or cycle to school are accompanied by an adult than in the past. The results of the study also suggested that School Travel Plans, when combined with the energy and commitment to implement them can have a significant effect on school travel choices. As part of the case study, parents were asked to rank the importance of a number of factors which could influence choices regarding their children's school travel. The responses from parents identified safety concerns, regarding both road and personal safety, as the major factor behind decisions regarding their children's travel choices. Time constraints coupled with the complexity of travel requirements of many families were identified as significant factors. Multinomial Logit Models for both mode choice and pupils travel independence were then produced for both the journey to and from school. These models were based on the results of the case study. The models produced indicate that, at a school level, there is a correlation between increasing school roll and an increasing proportion of pupils travelling by car. A slight negative correlation between school decile and car usage was also indicated. This is contrary to the normally accepted understanding that in most transport situations there is a positive correlation between increasing affluence and car usage. Superior model results were obtained at a disaggregated individual level, using nine variables relating to the school, the neighbourhood, and the home, than the results obtained using the school based variables of. However, it is not considered that the effort required to obtain information on the additional variables is justified when estimating mode choices of pupils at an individual school. It is therefore recommended that a model using Decile, Average Age, and School Roll variables be used to estimate mode choices at an individual school. At a family level, there was a strong positive correlation between distance from school, age of the pupils, and the number of major roads between school and home, and car usage. It became apparent that the decisions made regarding children's school travel are very complex. Families juggle a number of factors, many of which are in conflict with one another. For example a desire to care for the environment may be in conflict with the demand to get the children to school, and get to work on time. This complex interrelationship between factors has resulted in some instances where normally accepted "Rules of Thumb", such as the understanding that increased car usage is generally associated with increasing wealth, do not appear to be applicable to school travel. The complexity of interrelationships has further meant that it has not been possible to quantify the impact of any one factor on its own.