Impact of the location of new schools on transportation infrastructure and finance
Wagner, James Bartley
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Public school planning and land use planning have become increasingly separated fields over the last 35 years. This results in misaligned goals when school districts do not plan facilities that support a community's land use planning goals. The result is a disjointed growth pattern where new schools are built on the urban fringe and act as a magnet for new development that often goes against desired development patterns. Previous research on school locations and development patterns has focused on institutional barriers to cooperation and strategies to help local governments cooperate better with local land use planners. To date, there has been no significant research that attempts to quantify the relationship between school location and development patterns and the transportation infrastructure necessary to serve new development. This research shows that there is a relationship between school location and new development. Four counties in Georgia were selected as case studies and analyzed with a Geographic Information System (GIS) to determine the significance of the link between these activities. Counties were selected based on their character (urban, suburban, exurban, rural) and analyzed separately. An elementary school and high school were analyzed for each county. In addition, interviews with school facility planners were conducted to further define what institutional barriers prevent cooperation among local land use planners and school planners. It was found that there is a wide range of levels of cooperation between school planners and local planners. Some school districts had a formalized communication process with local planners, some had an ad-hoc communication process, and others had no process at all. Recommendations are made on ways to improve the cooperation between these two professional fields. This thesis also examines the link between education and transportation capital funding. Georgia lawmakers are struggling to determine what type of capital funding mechanism would be appropriate for new transportation projects, but these new projects may negatively impact educational funding, which is currently based on a sales tax.