SCHOOL TRAFFIC ON EDUCATION HILL - COMPARABLE TO TRAFFIC AT COSTCO
By Susan Wilkins, LWSD parent and volunteer
TRAFFIC BY THE NUMBERS (a little boring, but count along….)
Redmond High School has 1440 students and a staff of 120 who start arriving from all directions in their cars shortly before 7:00AM. Only 230 students ride the bus to school, the rest arrive in cars, either by driving and parking or being dropped off by a parent. Redmond High School attracts nearly 900 cars to the neighborhood between 7:00 and 7:30 AM each weekday morning. As a comparison, this exceeds peak hourly traffic at Costco which attracts about 700 cars per hour.*
Redmond Junior High has 850 students and about 70 staff members. During traffic counts in May, nearly 400 cars dropped off students between 7:25 and 7:50 AM. More than HALF the students at RJH arrived at school in private vehicles. RJH also had 5 buses that dropped off 215 students.
Horace Mann Elementary had 470 students and a staff of about 40. On a typical morning 180 cars dropped off students in the parking lot and another 60 dropped off students at various outer streets, a total of 240 vehicles. Mann had one bus that dropped off 12 Redmond Elementary transfer students.
With 3000 students and staff arriving at 3 schools in 1500+ vehicles, we have a huge traffic mess that's not going to be fixed by telling people to “walk to school”. So, will the school district and the City of Redmond stop telling us that this will solve our traffic problem? Read More.........
We have all tried walking and it is not practical for most families. One radius mile from the school can translate into a 1.5 mile walk, sometimes with an elevation gain of 200-300 feet. Elementary students can’t safely cross the street by themselves so they have to be accompanied by an adult – often an unrealistic time expectation especially for families with toddlers and infants. Junior high students have to sacrifice 30-40 minutes of their most productive morning sleep time in order to walk a mile and a half. So we all put our kids in the car and drive them to school. The 650 car trips driving 350 students to Horace Mann Elementary (a “walking school”) and 450 students to RJH each morning translates to at least 250,000 miles driven in a year by parents. It can be inferred that all of these students who are arriving in cars live less than 1 radius mile from school, otherwise they would be on LWSD school buses.
Elementary and junior high students are the ideal group for mass transportation: they can’t drive cars, they’re all arriving at and leaving the same location at the same time, and they all live in a limited geographic location. Adding 3-5 buses to Education Hill that make multiple pick-ups and drop-offs all within a 1-mile radius of the schools would eliminate a lot of the school traffic that we now have.
How to pay for the buses? The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) already pays the Lake Washington School District a flat transportation reimbursement of $62.00 per student in grades K-5 who lives closer than 1 radius mile from school.** This translates into about $26,000 for Horace Mann students and this money could and should be used to fund busing.
Currently the state doesn’t reimburse school districts for transporting junior high or high school students who live less than 1 radius mile from school. The Lake Washington School District doesn’t have any money set aside to provide bus service for students at Redmond Junior High even though it’s clear that close-in busing would eliminate most of the 400 vehicles drop-offs each morning. (Relatively few students are picked up after school; most who were driven in the morning walk home or do after-school activities or sports and would not need an afternoon bus.) How schools are reimbursed for transportation is decided by the legislature – so they need to think about changing the law and creating a new plan that reimburses school districts when they transport students who live within the 1-mile radius. It would significantly reduce junior and senior high traffic on Education Hill. In fact, many schools in the district and across the state are burdened by parent traffic from families that live less than a mile from their school and are driving their children to school.
As a parent, I am already spending a lot of time and gas money driving my children to school each morning and I find the relentless, chaotic traffic at RHS, RJH and Horace Mann stressful and intimidating, so I would be willing to pay to supplement the cost of school bus service. Maybe the City of Redmond should agree to fund school bus service for Redmond Junior High School students who live within the 1-mile radius from the school but are currently being driven to school, both as an experiment to see how much traffic is reduced, and also as a short-term fix to the dangerous traffic conditions they created with their 4-to-3 lane conversion on 166th Avenue NE. Does anyone have any other ideas for funding extra buses?
I find it penny wise and pound foolish that we will spend $16 billion tax dollars building light rail that many of us will rarely ride, but we won’t spend a few thousand dollars to bus our children about a mile and a half to school 180 days each year.
*See Costco Wholesale Trip Generation and Pass-by Rate Study 9/2007 submitted to Redmond Planning Department for the proposed Costco Site on Union Hill Road, Redmond. Peak hourly In/Out rate: 653/585.
**OSPI website Transportation Allocation for LWSD Form 1026-A Schedule E, Line J for allocation calculation ($48.29/student X 1.29 Load Factor = $62.27 per K-5 student- Horace Mann had 413 K-5 students in 2009-2010: $62.27 X 413 = $25,717.51)
By Susan Wilkins
LWSD parent and PTSA volunteer
Photo by Yoder - during 4:3 lane conversion construction, 2009