The US EPA’s office of Policy, Economics and

The US EPA’s office of Policy, Economics and Innovation is studying the effect of school location and urban form on transportation choices. It’s part of an effort to reform school design standards that contribute to sprawl. Travel to and from school contributes significantly to vehicle miles traveled — in some communities it represents 20 to 30 percent of morning rush hour traffic, says Tim Torma, who is directing the project for the EPA.

State standards “are fueling the trend toward larger schools outside of communities,” Torma says. These include minimum acreage requirements in 27 states. “This is true despite the fact that the group that originated the acreage requirements (Council of Educational Facility Planners International) has disavowed them,” Torma says “No one will stand up and defend these standards, yet they persist.” The EPA plans to encourage public officials in a few of these states to get rid of the acreage requirements, which could encourage more states to follow suit. The research is six months away from publication, Torma estimates.