One Vancouver school took an optimistic view of the increased traffic patterns during the 2010 Winter Olympics seeing it as a opportunity to focus on changing the way students travel to school.
Sir Winston Churchill Secondary students and staff launched the Churchill Carbon Challenge shortly before the start of the Winter Olympics to see if they could change their travel habits.
With the assistance of teachers, a survey took place over three days in a randomly selected class period, across all grades. Surveys were taken in January prior to the Winter Games, and twice during the Games. A follow-up survey will take place at the end of March. About 1,700 out of 2,100 students responded.
The survey asked students to share how they had come to school on those days. The modes of transportation surveyed included car, carpool, walk, public transportation, bike or a combination of bike and public transit.
"Our goal with the survey was to create competition between grades, including their teachers, to change the way they travel to school" said Francois Clark, a social studies and French immersion teacher at Churchill. Students even volunteered time to operate a bike valet service.
Survey data indicated that there was a slight drop in car use and a small increase in walking, public transportation and bike/public transportation during the Winter Olympics. Points were awarded to students who changed their mode of transportation to a more environmentally friendly choice. Once the survey is completed the grade with the most points will win prizes including bus tickets.
Most students in the Churchill area live within walking or public transportation corridor of the school. Despite this fact, there is high car use at the school with about 30 per cent of students being dropped off by parents and 15 per cent carpooling with at least one other student. It would only be students enrolled in district programs including International Baccalaureate and French Immersion who might travel a longer distance to the school.
"Changing transportation habits is the responsibility of everyone including parents, students, teachers and staff," said Principal Andy Krawczyk. "The survey of our school's transportation habits will allow us to reflect on the real sustainability of any changes made."
The attached table shows a comparison of travel habits from one day in January 2010 and another day in February during the Winter Olympics.