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School Traffic – Should We Care?

I often come across discussions surrounding the subjects of neighborhood traffic. In many cases these discussions point to buildings and institutions, such as schools that cause such traffic.

The issue of traffic is something that always keeps neighbors busy discussing. Whenever a new development is about to happen in the neighborhood, residents often ask three questions; and they are – traffic, traffic and traffic.

And there are good reasons why we ought to care about traffic in the neighborhood. A high traffic is not only a good source of harmful pollutants, but also for institutions like schools, a busy traffic pattern on a school’s access roads will be unsafe for the children who walk to that school.

Fortunately, there are City guidelines that dictate the maximum amount of traffic that any segment of our city streets can handle, based on the width of these streets. These guidelines use a measurement index, called VFD (vehicle per day) to define the capacity of these streets. Indices such as VFD do not only reflect the engineering aspects of these streets, but these figures also help us to gauge the tolerable amount of traffic a neighborhood street can take.

Some can also try to use these VFD data to point to traffic situation caused by an institution, with obvious caveat off course – there could most likely be more than one entity that draw traffic to a neighborhood street.

One of these entities I mentioned above could be a school in our city. Our city has 6 schools – 2 of them are public schools, Hollywood Elementary and Paint branch Middle. The rest 4 are private schools – Berwyn Christian, Friends Community, Holy Redeemer and AlHuda. (Btw, AlHuda is planning to leave College Park to a newer $15 million “home”, per their website).

Though the VFD data on a street that leads to one of these schools can be attributed to that particular school, I’m not aware if any of the City’s 6 schools are violating the VFD guidance that I mentioned earlier.

That said, VFDs indicate a cumulative traffic data over a period of a day. During part of the days, especially when a school starts and dismisses, you’d see line of cars going in and out of that school. This is a picture that we see on all of the access streets that go to all of our 6 city schools.

That said, there are rooms to improve the traffic situation on schools’ access roads, especially during these peak times of the day.

One way to improve peak time school traffic is cut back is to institute car pooling. Car pooling not only reduces number of vehicles on streets, but also gives convenience to parents in their busy morning schedules.

There are other ways to address peak time school traffic. One idea I am a big fan of is to institute walking or biking to the school. I believe the Hollywood Elementary school had a Walk to School week early this year; I think that was wonderful.

Another idea is to raise traffic awareness among parents. Most parents who drive irresponsibly on neighborhood streets often need reminder to behave. I took part of a few traffic awareness campaign near schools before, but I think we should do this more often.

Another idea is to support school busing. While some of the City schools have bus services, most schools don’t have. Especially for private schools, where parents pay a hefty tuition fee to keep their children in the school,  maintaining a school bus can prove to be quite expensive.  There are other limitations, such as a narrow access street, that might prevent from having a school bus system. I think coordination with County’s public school bus system can help alleviate the cost of busing for these schools.

Most importantly, residents need to work together in support of their neighborhood schools. The best institution a neighborhood can have is an educational institution, such as a school. Good schools are indications of strong neighborhoods, thus no matter whether our children go to one of our city schools or not, we should all try our best to nurture and help these schools by instituting ideas I described before.

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