Schools-2009 SSc4.1: Alternative Transportation—Public Transportation Access

  • Schools_SS4-1_Type3_Pub Transport Diagram
  • Site selection makes all the difference

    Site selection is the key factor in determining how easily a project can qualify for this credit. If your project is located in a densely populated area that is well-served by public transportation, it should be very easy to meet the requirements.

    Exemplary points are easy to achieve in this credit, especially for projects located in dense urban centers that are well served by the public transit system. If however, your project site is located further than two miles from transit facilities then achieving this credit may prove to be challenging.

    An all-around good idea

    Facilitating access to public transportation not only brings environmental benefits in the form of reduced greenhouse gas emissions and fewer cars on the road, but it can also reduce commuting costs for building occupants and help attract new hires and retain employees.

    Options for larger projects

    Larger-scale projects may want to consider working with local transit authorities to bring public transportation access near the project site if none already exists. You may not need to ask for an entirely new bus route—some other options include diverting an existing bus route or adding a stop on a route that runs nearby.

    Go by streetcarLocating in neighborhoods with public transit, like Portland, Oregon’s Pearl District, reduces transportation energy use while giving occupants more options. Photo – Reconnecting America

    If a rail station or a bus line that a project plans to use for compliance has not been built yet, then you will need to provide proof that it will be funded, sited and planned at the time of project completion.

    If public transportation cannot be brought closer to your project site, you still have the alternative of providing shuttles to existing public transit—either regularly scheduled or on demand. Note that shuttles buses should provide direct access to transit facilities within two miles of the project site, approximately a 5–10 minute drive, and must be available to all project occupants.

    FAQs for SSc4.1

    What are the requirements for shuttle buses?

    Per the LEED Reference Guide, they must connect to public transit and operate during the most frequent commuting hours.

    Per a LEED addendum published 4/1/12, they must also "provide direct access to transit facilities within 2 miles of the project site, approximately a 5-10 minute drive, and must be available to all project occupants."

    A bus has multiple stops within my 1/4-mile radius. Can I count each of those?

    No, as this doesn't increase service to the LEED project. (Depending on project specifics, you could try to make a case, however.)


  • Best Practices
  • Gotcha
  • Action Steps
  • Cost Tip


Expand All

  • Although this credit is generally focused on public transit, schools can also earn the credit by showing that most students walk to school. See the credit language for exact requirements, and action steps below in Schematic Design for more details.

  • Selecting a site with easy access to public transportation is the easiest way to earn this credit, so ideally this credit will be considered during site selection. Projects located in dense urban areas generally can qualify, whereas projects located in rural or suburban areas, where public transportation infrastructure is not as developed, may need to facilitate access to existing mass transit nearby, which may in some cases be difficult or expensive.

  • If there are no bus stops or train stations in the project’s immediate vicinity, consider talking to local transit authorities to see if a bus line can be rerouted closer to the project site, or if a bus stop can be added near the building to serve the occupants.

  • There is generally no extra cost for projects with access to existing transportation access or those that request an added bus stop.

  • A transit-oriented project may need less parking area, contributing to SSc4.4: Alternative Transportation—Parking Capacity. You can also reduce your costs for parking construction, maintenance, and stormwater infrastructure and fees.

Schematic Design

Expand All

  • Typically, the owner or LEED consultant is responsible for documenting access to public transportation and should identify local stations and bus routes closest to the project, reaching out to local transit authorities if necessary.

  • To document the credit create a vicinity site map, to scale, illustrating the building in relation to the bus lines or rail stations that will be used for compliance. A delineated walking route from the project to the transit stop is also recommended.

  • One commuter train station within a half-mile walking distance is sufficient to meet the credit requirement. This can be a local metro, subway, light rail or long-distance commuter line. Alternatively, two bus lines within ¼ mile walking distance can satisfy the credit requirement. These can be private, public, or campus bus lines. For Schools, the school bus line can count as one of two bus lines.

  • Walking distance must be measured from the main building entrance to the bus stop or rail station. This path must follow sidewalks and other walkable areas. Crossing highways, lawns or other private areas is not considered an acceptable part of pedestrian access.

  • Some projects have two or three “main” entrances from which to measure the distance to bus stops or rail stations. If any one of these entrances is within the required distance, this can qualify your project for the credit. Confirm in the credit narrative which entries are “main” entries.

  • Public, private, or campus bus lines in proximity to the project site can be used for credit compliance as long as building occupants have consistent access at peak times. If there is an existing shuttle that runs nearby to the project site with restricted access, consider talking to bus operators to see if you can get permission for your project occupants to use the shuttle. (See the Documentation Toolkit for an example using a shuttle from the project site.)

  • If a rail station or bus stop that you plan to use for compliance has not yet been built, you will need to provide proof that it will be funded, sited and planned at the time of project completion. (It does not have to be built, however.)

  • A bus line that goes in separate directions (for example, one into town, one out of town), counts as a single bus line, not two, and does not meet the credit requirement for two bus lines. Compliant bus lines must serve two distinct routes. The simplest way to determine this is to verify that the buses display two different route numbers. Two routes that converge near the project and then diverge blocks away count as separate.

  • Consider one of the two options for pursuing an Exemplary Performance point for this credit:

    • Developing a comprehensive transportation management plan. The plan must quantify the reduction of personal automobile use by building occupants due to a variety of alternative transportation options and strategies. This same Exemplary Performance point covers all of the Alternative Transportation credits.
    • Demonstrate access to double the number of train lines or bus lines. The frequency of service at these particular stations must total a minimum of 200 rides daily. (See the Documentation Toolkit for an example.)

  • Documentation of this credit can occur anytime between schematic design and 100% construction documents. Unless your team is pursuing an alternative compliance path, you can document the credit as soon as the locations of your main entries are set.

  • Schools must also provide dedicated walking paths and biking lanes that connect the school buildings to the edge of the school property without the interference of vehicles or fences. A minimum of two paths going in two different directions must be provided.

  • Schools can meet this credit through providing pedestrian access. To determine whether you comply with this option, develop two lists of students and their walking distances from home to school, one for students who are in Grade 8 and below (maximum distance from school of 0.75 miles), and one for students Grades 9 and above (maximum distance from school of 1.5 miles). Distances are as the crow flies, not actual walking distance—as long as there is actual pedestrian access. Then determine whether a minimum of 80% of the students live within those distances.

  • This approach can be challenging to document, as information about where students live may not be readily available and compiled.

  • The civil engineer or landscape architect responsible for site layout should coordinate pedestrian and bike paths with school exits for student safety and compliance with the credit requirements. Early planning is a must.

Design Development

Expand All

  • Pedestrian paths should be wide and independent of the bike paths. Make sure they will be available and accessible in all seasons.

Construction Documents

Expand All

  • Fill in the LEED Online credit form. Document the credit with a site plan highlighting the pedestrian route from the building entrance to the identified bus or train stop or stops. Provide a distance scale to confirm that the building entrance is within the required distance of transit—¼ mile for bus, ½ mile for train.

  • Develop detailed construction drawings and specifications for the walking and biking paths from the school building to the edge of the school property.

  • If pursuing Option 3, provide the two lists of students, showing that 80% or more students have pedestrian access. Draw a map showing the two areas defined by the appropriate distances (0.75 miles and 1.5 miles) and clearly illustrate and state that a total of 80% of students that attend the school live within these specified areas. The map must include a scale.

Operations & Maintenance

Expand All

  • Consider providing building occupants with information about public transportation options in the vicinity and instituting programs that promote their use, such as subsidized passes or other financial incentives. This could be part of a wider transportation management plan, which is one available strategy for gaining an Exemplary Performance point under IDc1. To meet this ID point, project teams would have to institute a Comprehensive Transportation Management Plan that promotes the use of alternate transportation and limits the use of personal vehicles.

  • Walking paths require cleaning, good drainage and snow removal throughout the year. Include the maintenance in the facility operations plan to ensure that the paths are always accessible to students.


    Excerpted from LEED 2009 for Schools New Construction and Major Renovations

    SS Credit 4.1: Alternative transportation - public transportation access

    4 Points


    To reduce pollution and land development impacts from automobile use.


    Option 1: Rail station, bus rapid transit station & ferry terminal proximity

    Locate the project within 1/2-mile (800 meter) walking distance The distance that a pedestrian must travel between origins and destinations without obstruction, in a safe and comfortable environment on a continuous network of sidewalks, all weather-surface footpaths, crosswalks, or equivalent pedestrian facilities. The walking distance must be drawn from an entrance that is accessible to all building users.(measured from a main building entrance) of an existing or planned and funded commuter rail, light rail, subway station bus rapid transit1 station or commuter ferry terminal.


    Option 2: Bus stop proximity

    Locate the project within 1/4-mile (400 meter) walking distance (measured from a main building entrance) of 1 or more stops for 2 or more public, campus, or private bus lines usable by building occupants.

    A bus system may count as 1 of these lines.


    Option 3: Pedestrian access

    Show that the project school has an attendance boundaryThe limits used by school districts to determine what school students attend based on where they live. such that at least 80% of students live within no more than 3/4-mile walking distance for grades 8 and below, and 1 1/2-mile walking distance for grades 9 and above. In addition, locate the project on a site that allows pedestrian access to the site from all residential neighborhoods that house the planned student population.


    Option 4. Rideshare proximity

    Projects outside the U.S. may locate the project within 1/4-mile (400-meter) walking distance (measured from a main building entrance) of 1 or more stops for 2 or more existing rideshare options that that meet the definition of public transportation and are authorized by the local transit authority if one exists.

    All options

    For all options, provide dedicated walking or biking lanes to the transit lines that extend from the school building at least to the end of the school property in 2 or more directions without any barriers (e.g., fences) on school property.

    Streamlined path available

    Achievement of this credit can be documented via a LEED ND v2009 submittal. For more information check out this article.

    Potential Technologies & Strategies

    Perform a transportation survey of future building occupants to identify transportation needs. Locate the building near mass transit.


    1 Bus rapid transit is an enhanced bus system that operates on exclusive bus lanes or other transit rights-of-way; it is designed to combine the flexibility of buses with the efficiency of rail.

    2 Rideshare is a transit service that involves sharing a single vehicle with multiple people, excluding large-scale vehicles such as buses and trains. The rideshare transit facility must include a signed stop and a clearly defined waiting area. Additionally, the rideshare must include an enclosed passenger seating area, fixed route service, fixed fare structure, continuous daily operation, and the ability to pick up and drop off multiple riders. Rideshare options must hold 4 or more passengers, except for human-powered conveyances which must hold 2 or more passengers.

    3 Public transportation consists of bus, rail, or other transit services for the general public that operate on a regular, continual basis.

Web Tools

Google Maps

Identify and map walking distances to the nearest bus/rail stops from the project site.

A great site for finding walkable communities and neighborhoods.

Subway and bus directions for NY.

Public transportation resources

Find public transportation around your site.

Project for public spaces

List of online resources on encouraging public transportation and space usage.

Institute for Transportation and Development Policy

This is a list of resources on increase of access to public transportation and walkability of cities.

International Walk to School

Website celebrating International Walk to School Month (October), which focuses on creating safer streets, promoting healthier habits, and conserving the environment.

Radius Around a Point

Helps to determine the radius around a project site to determine how many bus stops and other amenities are nearby.

Technical Guides

USGBC guide for campus building

Important to refer to in case of multi-building development.

Guide to transportation management plan

This encyclopedia is a comprehensive source of information about innovative management solutions to transportation problems.


National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Government organization dedicated to saving lives, preventing injuries, and reducing vehicle-related crashes.

National Center for Safe Routes to School

Federal program designed to improve safety and encourage kids to walk and bike to school.

Walkable Communities Transportation Alternatives

Organization advocating for pedestrians.


Comprehensive Transporation Management Plan for Seattle Children’s Hospital

A sample plan highlighting enhanced transportation options, including a shuttle to transit system, an innovative bicycle program, and increased financial rewards for employees who commute without driving alone.


Commuter Program at Juniper Networks

Video of a good transportation plan that highlights company’s mass transit subsidies and telecommuting programs as well as its financial incentives, which helped the company achieve over 24% trip reduction in 2007.

Walking or Bike Lanes

All Options

For all options, the school needs to provide dedicated walking or biking lanes to the edge of school property in two or more directions. For Apache Elementary School, which earned this credit, an alternative compliance path was necessary, illustrated here by a narrative, site plan, and map of area bike routes.

Walking Distance Map

Option 3: Pedestrian Access

This map from a project that earned this credit shows 85% of students living within walking distance, and all residential neighborhoods housing students having pedestrian access.

Subway Ridership

Exemplary Performance

Exemplary performanceIn LEED, certain credits have established thresholds beyond basic credit achievement. Meeting these thresholds can earn additional points through Innovation in Design (ID) or Innovation in Operations (IO) points. As a general rule of thumb, ID credits for exemplary performance are awarded for doubling the credit requirements and/or achieving the next incremental percentage threshold. However, this rule varies on a case by case basis, so check the credit requirements. was earned for this project by demonstrating proximity to at least two commuter rail lines with over 200 transit rides per day, total. (In this case, 14 subway lines with 2,227 stops per day were documented.)

Vicinity Map

Option 2: Bus Stop Proximity

Use a vicinity map like this to demonstrate your project's proximity to public transit. Include the number and location of stations or lines and the walking distances from main building entrances.

LEED Online Forms: Schools-2009 SS

Sample LEED Online forms for all rating systems and versions are available on the USGBC website.

Design Submittal

PencilDocumentation for this credit can be part of a Design Phase submittal.


Todd Bundren Director of Sustainabilty - Architectural Project Manager Lawrence Group
Nov 13 2012
LEEDuser Member
2144 Thumbs Up

Call-a-Ride as compliant public transport

The local metro transit service (public transit services) in my project’s area offers a Call-A-Ride curb-to-curb service for the general public and persons with disabilities. The vehicles used are multi passenger shuttle busses which transport multiple patrons at once (basically small buses). Many people utilize this service as a shuttle from one location to a local light rail station (within 1.5 miles of my project site). Patrons must reserve the transportation one day in advance or set up a reoccurring time for pick up. If I have 2 bus stops for 1 bus line within ¼ miles of my site and the call-a-ride public transport service with 2 light rail stations within 1.5 miles of the project site; does this appear to be a strategy that would be accepted for SSc4.1? I know a shuttle service from a project site to a light rail station within 2 miles has been approved in the past. Any guidance would be appreciated. Thanks!

David Posada Integrated Design & LEED Specialist, SERA Architects Nov 19 2012 Guest 21620 Thumbs Up

It's possible the shuttle might count as one of your two bus lines. The addendum for BD&C on 4-1-2012 modified page 43 to include:

"Shuttle buses should provide direct access to transit facilities within 2 miles of the project site, approximately a 5-10 minute drive, and must be available to all project occupants."

The main concern is the requirement to reserve the shuttle a day in advance, which makes it hard for visitors and new users of the building to use it. Since there is another bus line that is within .25 miles, that might be seen as adequate for visitors, especially if you can document how many people are expected to use the shuttle and how that reduces the number of single passenger vehicles. You might want to do a CIRCredit Interpretation Ruling. Used by design team members experiencing difficulties in the application of a LEED prerequisite or credit to a project. Typically, difficulties arise when specific issues are not directly addressed by LEED information/guide to know for sure since this is worth 4 points, or you could wait to see what the design phase review says.

Post a Reply
Jean Marais b.i.g. Bechtold DesignBuilder Expert
Nov 02 2011
LEEDuser Member
11145 Thumbs Up

Daycare Center - Bike Racks on Lot Boundry

My Bicycle Parking Racks are located on the Lot Boundry. On the otherside of the fence, through the always open gates is the public side walk. How should I (why should I) proove/plan "dedicated bike lanes in two directions". This came back as lacking the "site plan showing"...from the reviewers. There is a 20 m walk way to the main entrance from the racks.

Please help.

David Posada Integrated Design & LEED Specialist, SERA Architects Nov 14 2011 Guest 21620 Thumbs Up
Post a Reply
Thorn Grafton
May 26 2011
318 Thumbs Up

Exemplary Performance

According to page 46 the LEED reference guide, it states the following: (FOR SCHOOLS - If a school bus system is being counted as 1 of the required bus lines to meet the requirements of Option 2, exemp perf can be achieved by locating the project with "1/2" mi of at least 1 or more stops for 2 or more public bus lines.)

Considering that the standard credit is limited to 1/4 mi this seems too good to be true, but the LEED online template does not acknowledge this option. Anyone have any insight if the above is a typo by USBGC or if this is a valid?

David Posada Integrated Design & LEED Specialist, SERA Architects Jun 24 2011 Guest 21620 Thumbs Up

It could be an error, but since it's not listed in any addenda/ errata, you'll probably want to submit a question via the LEEDOnline "Feedback" link at the top of the v3 page once you are logged into LEEDOnline.

Daniel McDonald Intern, IKG Architects Aug 17 2011 Guest 215 Thumbs Up

I just received feedback on this same question. The 1/2 mile stated in the guide is apparently correct, and they are working on updating the form. I was advised to delay submission until the form is working properly, or to note this in the "Special Circumstances" if there is not time to wait.

Thorn Grafton Nov 10 2011 Guest 318 Thumbs Up

Just an update, we went ahead and submitted with the 1/2 mile exemplary approach and it was approved on the 10/28/2011. However we were warned that for future versions this may be changed. I suspect someone messed up and wrote 1/2 mile in the guide instead of 1/4 and very few people actually pursued it.

Regardless, as of now it appears to still be a valid (and sneaky) way to achieve the credit and gain an exemplary point. Just be sure to include a narrative explaining this approach so the review team is aware of it.

Post a Reply
Kendall E Design Partners Inc.
Jun 08 2010
493 Thumbs Up

Bike Paths

This credit requires "dedicated walking or biking lanes to the transit lines that extend from the school building at least to the end of the school property in 2 or more directions without any barriers (e.g., fences) on school property". If our campus is small with basically one road in and out, would 1 path be acceptable that leads out to the main road where the transit lines are located?

Ben Stanley Sustainability Manager, YRG sustainability Jun 14 2010 LEEDuser Expert 6457 Thumbs Up


I've had a similar situation approved before. Probably the most important thing is to provide the context to the review team as to why your solution makes sense given the specific situation of your project and how it meets the overall intent of providing paths leading off campus in two different directions.

Mohammed Najjar Apr 14 2011 Guest 97 Thumbs Up

How can I prove option 3, while building still not constructed yet, so I don't know who are the students and where they are live?

David Posada Integrated Design & LEED Specialist, SERA Architects Apr 14 2011 Guest 21620 Thumbs Up

In planning for the construction of the school were there any studies or surveys to determine the location of potential students?

Mohammed Najjar Apr 16 2011 Guest 97 Thumbs Up

Yes, but all these studies are tentative, and after occupancy the situation may be changed. I cannot decide who will attend the school.

David Posada Integrated Design & LEED Specialist, SERA Architects Apr 18 2011 Guest 21620 Thumbs Up

In some cases public or government schools are be planned to serve the population of a particular geographic area and there are policies that influence where students will attend school. In other cases a school may enroll students from a wider area based on test scores or other selection criteria.

You'll need to decide how confident you (and the reviewers) will be that you can anticipate where students are likely to live. If don't you think there are enough reasons to expect 80% of students to come from within the "attendance boundaryThe limits used by school districts to determine what school students attend based on where they live.," then Option 3 may not be apply to your situation.

Post a Reply

Start a new comment thread

Aug 22 2017
Type the characters you see in this picture. (verify using audio)
Type the characters you see in the picture above; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.

Copyright 2017 – BuildingGreen, Inc.