Friday, September 16, 2011

A Problem That Needs Fixing

We became a city for many reasons; local control of zoning, code enforcement, increased police protection, control of taxes (some), etc.  The city has made good on lots of promises.  We now have control of zoning, we have our own code enforcement, council has kept taxes as is, and we do have more police on the streets.

Take a look here: VIDEO

Watch the video and you'll hear concerns from a parent and Councilwoman Bonser.  Listen carefully at the 2:00 minute mark of the video where the reporter says an officer will be there to assist with traffic.  To put in context, this video is from a couple years ago.   Still no traffic control officer and no traffic light.

It's my understanding the traffic counts do not qualify that intersection for a traffic light, so we need to move on (unless a waiver is possible).  The traffic officer - the reporter from the above video indicated that would be an expense for the school system, but I'm not sure.  But I know no one is there for traffic control in the mornings.   I'm not sure if DeKalb promised to provide funds to direct traffic or not.  Do any other schools in DeKalb (unincorporated or a city) have police directing traffic?

BloggerBob wrote a piece recently talking about a 45 minute 1.8 mile car ride.  And he's not alone.  The issue of a bunch of schools within close proximity of each other will not change.  It's not Nancy J's fault and it's not Jim R's fault, so let's not point fingers there.  But something needs done to correct the issue.  For those of you long-time visitors to my blog, you know I complain about things, but you also recognize I try to provide solutions to the problem.

The best solution is for more kids to ride the buses.  That won't happen for many kids due to the time issue.  DeKalb has one set of buses/drivers.  These buses first do elementary school kids, then high school routes, then middle school routes.  Buses start picking up kids at 6:40 AM, and school begins at DES at 8:00 AM.  This means your kid awakens at 6:15 AM for a two mile bus ride, to start school at 8:00 AM. That is not good use of time.  Riding a bus at 6:40 means the kids have to go to bed sooner.  Factor in the early bed time and the early bus stop time, and you are losing 5-10 hours of week with your child - family time that you should not be handing over. 

Here is the current carpool plan at DES:
current traffic plan for DES carpool

One issue is the car pool does not open until 7:30 AM.  Teachers are not in place yet and not enough room in the cafeteria for all the kids.  Under the current plan there is not a long enough car queue.

Also, people are forced to exit at the same spot as the crosswalk.  The crossing guard's job is to make sure kids cross safely, I know.  But can the crossing guard can allow more than one child to gather on the curb prior to stopping traffic? The pedestrian at a crosswalk has expectations for cars to yield and allow the pedestrian to cross.  The law requires for cars to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, but the pedestrian should not enter the roadway in front of a moving vehicle.  Perhaps Tom or Joe S. can weigh in more on the legal aspects of children at a crosswalk. No doubt, the goal is to encourage walking and parents need to know safety is goal number one. Is the guard required to immediately stop traffic when a child arrives at the cross walk? Can the child remain safely on the curb for one minute?  Please note the crossing guard cannot direct traffic, so don't blame him for the mess.

I feel the city manager should coordinate with our police for an officer to be positioned at DES for 30 minutes every morning.  This goes back to why we became a city.  Are we as a city so obsessed with signage rules, banning chickens, and being too Smart that we can't get an officer over at DES in the mornings? Over on my area of town is Woodland Elementary.  An officer is there every morning.  She directs traffic every morning.  She may be paid by the school system, or maybe the PTA, or maybe Sandy Springs - I don't know.  But the point is, she IS there. How does DES get an officer at the school?  One note - it is possible that an officer may not help the situation, but I think we should try.

One concern is that if the city puts an officer at DES, then why not every other school?  Same argument could be made for officers anywhere in the city.  Why do officers go where they go?  They 'go' due to demand - they go where they are needed. And I argue that enough city residents are affected by the traffic situation at DES to warrant an attempt to fix the problem.

Imagine a neighborhood where there have been very few, if any, issues that required officer assistance.  No break-ins, no traffic problems, a nice quiet area.  Police probably don't patrol that area as much as an area that does have frequent requests for services.  Just on Monday night a nice lady told me how the Dunwoody police (since being formed) have made a major difference in her area.  That's fantastic, that's why we became a city and why we have our own police.  It's nice to hear stories like that.  Her neighborhood had a need, and the police responded, with intended results.

Back to our topic - there is a need for assistance at DES in the mornings, just like the nice lady on Monday had a need for her neighborhood.  Austin and Vanderlyn do not need an officer to direct traffic.  There is a traffic light on Roberts for Austin that allows car pool to move okay, and traffic is at a crawl there so no speeding can take place.  Vanderlyn has a long queue and an officer there would do nothing to help.  Same for the high school.  That leaves Chesnut and Kinsley.  I think Kingsley sits back off the main road that it does not need an officer.  I can't comment on Chesnut so maybe Lynn D can comment.  It may be that only DES needs an officer in the morning.

A proposal for carpool at DES

The plan above moves the exit away from the crosswalk.  It creates a longer queue.  But it may require an officer on Womack, at least to implement the plan.  Some may be concerned about buses being in the same car pool lane as cars.  Unless there is a law against this, what's the problem?  Most likely the buses will arrive before the cars.  If not, no big deal.  All kids exit the vehicles, then get on a sidewalk.  Once the entire queue (from red bar to red bar on map) empties and moves out, the cars all move up.  This plan may work, it may not.  Maybe the folks in charge can try it.  I don't think it would make things worse.


Dunwoody Concerned Parent said...

Appreciate you addressing this issue. However, it was you that said adding 175 MORE kids from Jefferson was the fix to Vanderlyn's overcrowding. DES is quite crowded as it is. I'm hopeful that your post is heartfelt. However, I'm convinced it's politics since you are now running for council. Sorry. Time will tell.

DunwoodyTalk said...


I never advocated for more students than capacity at DES. I did advocate for Vanderlyn to keep its modulars, allowing for as many students as possible to stay there. I did advocate for all Dunwoody students to stay in Dunwoody (Georgetown not transferred inside '285'), I did advocate that DES not have trailers, and I did advocate for the school board to use the same criteria in Dunwoody as they did in all other areas of the county.

The only reason I brought up the DES traffic issue because a DES dad discussed the issue with me.

I knew there would be skeptics regarding the sincerity of the post, no doubt. But I regularly post on issues that have no affect on my life, but affect others in Dunwoody.

I do thank you for reading the blog and I'm also thankful you did not resort to name calling or personal attacks. I had a different viewpoint on the redistricting than you, I understand that.


VoteYesForGreenSpace said...


I don't always agree with your opinion on things but I am glad you took the time to address the traffic problem at DES. It seems we are being ignored by the city and the principal. I doubt a 'rick' sign would last long in Village Mill but I'll give it a try. PM sent.

Mom99 said...

Why is DES starting at 8am? The high school starts at 8:10am. The schools are too close together to be starting only 10 minutes apart. DES needs to start at 7:45am just like all the other elementary schools in the area. If DES started earlier and improved the carpool plan the traffic would be a lot better on Womack and Vermack in the morning.

Pattie Baker said...

The other issue with DES is that walkers and bike riders have to sit in a room and wait at the end of the day until every single bus and carpool car is gone. This is a huge disincentive to walk or bike and may be one of the reason 9 children out of 900 (or whatever it was), on a daily average, chose these traffic-reducing modes during the last two years. I understand the "safety concern" of having the kids and the cars/buses all in the parking lot at the same time, but there must be another way. In fact, there is. The Safe Routes to School folks do not recommend this method and have many best practices from elsewhere that make more sense.

Joe Hirsch said...

One more thing to add to the conversation: As a family who does walk to school on Womack each morning, our safety is routinely threatened by... BIKERS. Yes, since bikers are afraid to ride on the street, the adults and teens illegally ride on the sidewalks. Most do not have a bell or warning to caution the walkers in their paths. And while I have gladly seen DPD issue tickets to speeding drivers on the street, I have never seen one issue a ticket to the teens or adults bike riding on the sidewalks. I’d prefer everyone to drive their cars if my kids’ safety isn’t addressed as walkers.

Joe Seconder said...

Here's my detailed response to this voluntary, human-caused problem:

Rebecca said...

Rick, your DES friend needs to join the PTO transportation committee. Give him my email address.

Rebecca said...

There's a meeting schedule with DES, DCSS transportation, Dunwoody Police, etc. next week to address this problem, but I don't know the details.

Rebecca said...

Here's the article about that meeting I mentioned above: