Q: We have a large bus compound that is used as a transfer station (depot) for 50 buses twice a day. Currently, the buses park facing each other — 25 buses in each row, with about 30 to 35 feet of asphalt between them. The children unload and walk in the paved area to their second bus. This bus compound and buses are part of the larger transportation system. Do you have any recommendation for the design of a bus compound? Time spent changing buses must be kept to a minimum. What kind of safety features can you recommend?
— submitted via e-mail

A: Because this is an existing transfer depot, some improvements can be incorporated to enhance the experience for students, save time and provide concrete safety measures.

A study of student destinations vs. grade level could determine what buses should be parked directly facing each other. This might speed up the transfer of students; having their departure bus directly across from their arrival bus would shorten the distance they would have to travel. This also could help minimize the potential for cross-current movement, which would thereby decrease congestion during transfers. If not already, lower elementary, upper elementary, middle school and high school students also should be separated into appropriate age groups. This would expedite movement by keeping younger students separated from older students.

The first element that needs to be addressed is safety. To reinforce a safe experience, the entire depot plaza should be elevated to a curb height, thereby defining the pedestrian area and creating a wheel stop for buses. A fencing system around the entire plaza will help keep the students out of the roadway. The L-shaped fence at the bus door creates a safe pathway for children exiting or boarding buses. As the sketch above indicates, the fencing would direct the path of safe travel from the arriving bus through the plaza area to the departing bus. The walking surface would be at the plaza level to minimize a tripping hazard and allow for wheelchair access. The bus pull-up area between the paths would be 8 feet wide, and the outside corners of the fences would be protected from bus damage by the use of bollards.

A signage system numbering each boarding pathway would help children find their boarding gate, and a painted yellow line on the pavement as the students enter the pathway would give them a defined limit of travel. A covered canopy would provide protection from poor weather conditions. The plaza concept could benefit the students' educational experience by providing various learning elements in the design. Clocks, information kiosks, number games in the pavement and colorful accents could help create a fun and positive environment for kids.

Romano, AIA, is principal, and Wilson, AIA, is an associate at TMP Associates, Inc., Bloomfield Hills, Mich.