Steering towards a better Parking Plan

August 13, 2009

There was quite a ruckus at the July 28th Town COWncil (watch it on Mootube here) meeting about the parking and traffic congestion at Woodside Elementary school. Woodside Elementary is located directly on a very busy State highway and parents and children compete for the right-of-way with big rigs, construction vehicles, locals, bicyclists and even outsiders who may not be familiar with the situation. This has long been an issue. Who would think in our sleepy little town that we could have a full blown traffic jam twice a day! It is beyond aggravating to try and get through town at either the start or end of the school day.

The issue was brought up front and center by a letter from the CalTrans in response to complaints from bicyclists about the blocked bike lanes. There are also complaints from residents about blocked driveways and being forced to walk in traffic lanes. The school has done a number of things to try and fix the problem such as reconfiguring the parking areas and making the main parking lot one way to help ease traffic concerns. However, the problem persists.

COWs are worried, and rightly so, there is a tragedy just waiting to happen. It is essential that a safe solution be quickly implemented. Staff suggested experimenting with no parking on the north side west to Miramontes Road and regulated parking on the south side, but only for school drop-offs and pick-ups. The no-parking signs could be covered for special events. If left to CalTrans, most likely it would insist that the bike lanes be cleared by banning parking on both sides of the road. Some residents believe that not being able to stop or park along the road will cause even more of a problem due to lack of other available parking and access to pick up students quickly.

Possible solutions that have been suggested include allowing parking on one side of Woodside Road only, and/or adding a stoplight or stop sign during pick up and drop off hours; a special pull out lane for people leaving the parking lot; perhaps further reconfiguring of the parking lot would make it work better or a permanent traffic control person/traffic guard and even consideration of additional class staggering of the school start and dismissal times so there are less students coming and going at one time. Many have questions. Does the school parking and driveways meet minimum standards? What would be the standard for a school on a State Highway? Is there a way to increase parking? What would the State allow or not allow as solutions?

The COWncil has given the COWmunity until September 22nd to come up with a solution. This is not an issue that can be resolved by discussion and compromise alone. As a first step the Town really needs to retain an expert to study the possible solutions. While this is one area where the Town, School, State, parents and other interested COWs absolutely need to work together to find a safe, practical solution to the congestion, the solution needs to be based on expert advice.

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