School Site Design Study: Impact of School Site Paved Surface Area on Travel Mode Choice

Is there any relation between paved surface area of school sites and the modes of transportation used to get to school?
Observing the number of vehicles coming and going

Observing the number of vehicles coming and going

Mina Mahdavi, Kamaldeep Kaur

Staff Member:
Kelly Scott, Physical Activity Specialist, Healthy Environments Division, Healthy & Safe Communities Department

Gail Krantzburg


Course and Department:
Thesis project, W. Booth School of Engineering and Practice


In the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), there has been a steady decline in walking to and from school over the past 25 years, as children are increasingly dropped off and picked up by car. Data drawn from the 1986 to 2011 Transportation Tomorrow Survey shows that walking among 11 to 13 year olds in Hamilton has decreased from 58% in 1986 to 39% in 2011. This increase in car travel mode share to school in the GTHA, has added significant car traffic volume to roads during the morning peak period. Now schools are the second biggest car trip generator in the morning commute forming 22% of morning peak traffic, second only to workplaces, in the GTHA.

This project builds on the previous study “School Site Design and Travel Mode Choice: A Comparison of Objective and Subjective Measures of Walk ability of Schools in the Hamilton Area” completed February 2017.  The draft hypothesis for this project is “as the amount of school site motorized vehicle paved surface area increases so too does the use of motorized vehicles to the school site and surrounding streets”.  The information is intended to inform decisions about school site design that promotes the greatest mode share of walking and cycling, while reducing personal motorized vehicle use. 

  • Research indicates that there is a link between the built environment, and individual and population health
  • Sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity have been linked to an increased risk of chronic diseases
  • Travel by motorized vehicles (personal vehicles & school buses) negatively impacting pedestrian and cyclist safety
  • Motorized vehicles contribute to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that adversely impact respiratory and cardiac health
  • Availability of free parking and ‘kiss-and-rides” increases the use of motorized vehicles

Mina and Kamaldeep received ethics approval from the McMaster Research Ethics Office and the municipal school boards to observe 14 schools and collect data on the relationship between paved surfaces and modes of transportation. They will next interpret the data to determine relationships and provide recommendations for schools based on their findings. 

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