Watch the Insanity of American School Drop-Off

The double-wide snake of cars in the parking lot didn't solve the problem. Via David Bruce/YouTube
The double-wide snake of cars in the parking lot didn't solve the problem. Via David Bruce/YouTube

This video nicely encapsulates how ridiculous American school transportation has become in the era of parental chauffeurs.

It shows an experiment by the North Carolina Department of Transportation to keep school drop-off at Unionville Elementary School — located in a sprawling, semi-rural area outside Charlotte — from backing up onto the road that runs by it:

The experimental technique consists of the double lane of cars snaking through the parking lot. That was not enough, however, to keep traffic from spilling over. You can see the queue reach the roadway just before 7 a.m. and spill over onto the highway soon after. Also notice the five or so employees (or volunteers) helping get kids safely from the car door to the school entrance. That whole process takes almost an hour.

David Bruce, who posted the video, says the NCDOT pilot was not deemed successful enough to continue permanently.

According to Bruce, Unionville does have school buses, but many parents think they come too early, so they drop their children off on their way to work. The school draws from a radius of about 15 miles, so not all kids could walk or bike even if it were safe to do so.

From the looks of it, no kids can walk or bike to Unionville Elementary school. Better planning can help avoid this kind of situation in many cases. Schools trying to avoid transportation headaches can site the school in a relatively walkable area, near more homes. Sidewalks and bike lanes, of course, also help.

205 thoughts on Watch the Insanity of American School Drop-Off

  1. The shame of having to ride the bus to school. And no, I am not trolling or exaggerating. This started being the case 20 years ago, with bus-riding kids being ridiculed for riding the bus and has definitely only gotten worse over the past two decades.

    It’s not laziness, it’s worse. It’s peer pressure and social acceptance, the two building blocks of the high-school existence. Seems like it is expanding to elementary school as well.

  2. We have a new school in a new walk-friendly “new urbanism” neighborhood nearby. School buses are available for more distant kids. Yet every afternoon, there’s still a huge line of cars outside. Ridiculous.
    Given the demographics of the school, I suspect a lot of these parents are ferrying their kids to various after-school “enrichment” and athletic activities: because God forbid a kid should just go home and play or read or something.

  3. But only if it is a neighborhood school. If it is a charter or magnet school built into a walkable neighborhood you encounter the same problems.

  4. This looks pretty organized. My son’s school has something similar for picking up kids with 2 lanes of cars going through the campus. On the other hand the pickup from the middle school outside the cul-de-sac where I live is a nightmare. These people block my driveway all of the time. They do illegal u-turns while talking on their cell phones and the school doesn’t even allow the parents to park in their parking lot to pickup. It’s crazy! I can’t wait to move. I have called the Principal, the San Diego Unified Superintendent, the Police and the City Council. I have lived in my house since 1994 and it never gets better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


A School Where You Have to Use Your Own Two Feet

Isn’t this a pleasant way to travel? (Photo: D Sharon Pruitt via Flickr) In my Brooklyn neighborhood, one of the most walkable and transit-rich in the country, the streets near schools fill up every morning and afternoon with parents dropping off and picking up their kids in cars. They double-park, they idle, they block bike […]

September Brings “Back to School” Jump in Traffic Congestion

Why do traffic delays jump in September? Obviously, fewer people are on vacation. But it’s not just commuters back to the grind getting to and from work. It’s parents dropping their kids off at school, often with even less forgiving start times than an adult workday. Region Forward, a DC-based livability partnership, shows that the […]

4 Things Schools Can Do to Reduce the Asthma Threat From Idling Cars

Lately, American schools have been pretty responsive to public health and safety threats facing children. Witness the rise of peanut butter bans or the dwindling number of vending machines in schools. But schools haven’t been very successful at tackling what is arguably a much bigger threat to children’s health: air pollution caused by driving. Asthma is the most […]

How State DOTs Waste Money Bailing Out Local Planning Mistakes

A few weeks ago, we featured a video of Tennessee Department of Transportation chief John Schroer describing the reforms he’s applying at his agency. One problem he pinpointed — and this happens to every state DOT — is when local governments ask his DOT to spend big sums of money fixing transportation problems that could have […]

Five Ways Colleges Are Coaxing Students Out of Their Cars

The University of Wisconsin-Madison provides bike valet at its football games. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill supports free transit for everyone in the region. The University of California, Irvine launched a bike-share system in 2009, long before any major city in California had done so. American colleges and universities are leaders in […]