Kudos to the Strawberry Park Green Team for its initiative to reduce traffic at the elementary school. Too bad the same program isn't being taken on at Soda Creek, where it's needed even more.
The idea behind the Green Team's plan at Strawberry Park is to cut down on vehicles and carbon monoxide at the campus by encouraging more children to walk, ride bikes, carpool or ride the bus to school. The school is tracking the number of students who, in the fourth quarter, use a "green" form of transportation to get to school, and the class with the highest numbers wins the contest. The team also is surveying parents to better understand why bus ridership - which is about 40 percent district-wide, says transportation director Ed Dingledine - isn't higher.
The students at the school are talking actively about the contest. Danielle Skov, one of the parent organizers, said the hope is students and parents will develop habits that will continue into future quarters.
"We realize this is a district issue," Skov said. "As we start digging in, it becomes a bigger issue. You don't want to force anything on anyone, but this may make people think."
Skov is right - this is a big district issue, particularly at Soda Creek, which will move to a temporary site next year at the George P. Sauer Human Services complex on Seventh Street.
Unfortunately, when approached with the Strawberry Park Green Team's idea, Soda Creek opted out. Staff said the school is busy with the pending move to its temporary location. Certainly, that's understandable.
But the start of the 2007-08 school year is less than four months away. Sometime soon, the district has to define a transportation plan for Soda Creek.
We know it's not going to be pleasant. Parking on Seventh Street is woefully inadequate for the school administration and the residents along the street. Throw into that mix school bus traffic as well as parent and teacher parking and some real problems emerge. Parking on the perimeter around the Human Services Center site will have to be reduced to accommodate school bus drop-off and pick-up. Given that scenario, there appears to be only one workable solution off-site parking for district administrators and Soda Creek staff.
And like Strawberry Park, Soda Creek needs to start encouraging its parents to find a new way to get their children to school. As it stands, a long line of cars often forms on Eighth Street as parents wait to drop their children in the loop at Soda Creek. Next year, there will be no convenient place for cars to line up. The school district has no choice but to encourage Soda Creek students to walk, bike or bus to school. One thing the district should consider is dedicating some buses to Soda Creek-only routes. That may not be cost efficient, because Soda Creek students now are bused to Strawberry Park and then bused as a group to Soda Creek. However, it would reduce bus traffic at the school and would address parent concerns about their elementary-age students riding the bus with middle and high school students.
This perk could help lessen the pain Soda Creek families will endure during what likely is a two-year construction process. When it comes to parking and traffic, too many of us are guilty of wanting others to change their behaviors so that we don't have to change ours.
We commend Strawberry Park's unified effort to change the transportation behavior of students, staff and parents. We hope the program can become a model for Soda Creek, where such change is not only a good idea, but also the only realistic solution to a looming traffic crisis.