Untangling Madison traffic snarl

Feb. 4, 2014

The city has enacted a third trial of parking restrictions in an attempt to create a safer environment for students coming and going at Madison Elementary School.

Student drop-off and pickup at Madison, like at the Center Street schools — Eisenhower, Tosa West and Whitman — has been a subject of concern for years. Like the other three schools, Madison sits on a busy, fast-moving road — 100th Street, at the corner of Glendale Avenue — and has a number of additional factors that expose even those students who walk to school to moving vehicles.

Pickup and drop-off on busy 100th Street is one of the problems.

"I actually found a nice, easy spot, stopped and took my 20 seconds to get the kids out," said parent Jason Kauflin, describing a recent experience. "In that time, the space was so filled that I saw four cars double-parked all at once, and the kids (running) through the cars to get to the sidewalk."

No eastward outlet

The front door of the school, facing Glendale, would seem to be the obvious drop-off point. But, as Principal Lori Lester pointed out, there is no outlet on the east end of Glendale, meaning cars using it have to turn around, either in the school's small parking lot or in the parking lot of Madison Park, beyond the school.

This lack of an eastern outlet creates a "rather lengthy back up at the end of the day" at a stop sign on Glendale, Lester noted in an email, as departing teachers attempt to leave Glendale and turn onto or cross 100th Street.

So, 100th Street is most parents' choice for pickup and drop-off.

The city tries solutions

In May, the city enacted a 45-day trial, posting "no parking" signs on the stretch of 100th Street that passes the school. Within that stretch, there are a couple of "hug-and-go" signs, placed by parents and the school, indicating the drop-off zone.

In July, the city modified the trial, keeping the no-parking zone intact, and restricting parking to 15 minutes further south on 100th Street, to allow parents to wait for their children at pickup time, and set the trial for a 90-day review.

Last week, Porter brought the matter back to the Traffic and Safety Committee, saying he had received no complaints.

But Kauflin and Tristan Almazan, a parent and chairwoman of the school's Safe Routes to School Committee, attended, and did have comments.

Kauflin said the trial period was disturbed by construction in the area.

"We don't feel like we got a very good sample size to look at, to see if it's working or not," he said.

He recommended another 90-day trial.

Parents ignore signs

Almazan supported another trial, but said, "I also just want to say that in my own personal observations — I'm out there every day, picking up my kids, dropping off my kids — I'd like to say that I don't really think the signs made a difference at all. I was hoping they would, but they didn't. People are still going to park there, and there's been no enforcement of the signs, so people are still parking in the no-parking area."

"Maybe we should just allow parking in that area except in the mornings when we want to do our 'hug and go' from 7:30 to 8:30," she said.

Police Chief Barry Weber, who was present at the meeting, said he was disappointed there hadn't been any enforcement, and that he could "put more people out there." Alderman Dennis McBride said a month of full enforcement likely would change behavior.

No sidewalk on Glendale

Another problem for parents is that there is no sidewalk on Glendale between 100th and 101st streets. Children walking to school from the west have to walk in the road. Cones have been placed on the south side of the street, marking a walkway along the curb, but Kauflin, who has been an active promoter of safer access to the school, said a sidewalk is needed.

Porter said sidewalk installation on that block is in the city's five-year plan.

Kauflin said the lack of a sidewalk there is "unacceptable to the school."

"This has to be moved up to an immediate project, whatever budget you've got to find to do it," Kauflin said.

Sidewalks on streets that lack them have been regularly opposed by homeowners, including on 100th Street.

Aldermen on the committee said the school district could play a role by enlarging the school parking lot and making it a better access point for students and cars.

A Madison School parking lot enlargement is on a list of future capital improvement projects the School Board reviewed in December, but it is not budgeted for the coming school year.

The trial parking restrictions will be reviewed in the coming months.


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