Saturday, September 17, 2011

Why do Parents Drive their Kids to School?

The following are my thoughts concerning a posting from the Dunwoody Talk Blog entry regarding traffic backups caused by parents driving their kids to & from school:"A Problem that Needs Fixing"

I respectfully disagree with the basis of your argument on this human-made problem. It completely misses the cause that parents drive their kids to & from school voluntarily. That's it. Do we a society need to reallocate wealth to encourage this behavior? 30 years ago, this was unheard of.

On this Constitution Day, this is an interesting debate in the role of government and our publicly-funded education system. Is it an essential role of the school system or the local municipality to reallocate wealth & resources to manage this human-made problem? What offsetting reductions in government services or funding have been identified to pay for this? My DeKalb School & county taxes are high enough, thank you.

Recently, I've met a couple of parents that habitually drive their kids EVERY DAY to & from school, leaving their cars idling & spewing carbon dioxide into the air for our children to breathe. Another DES parent who volunteers with their Safe Routes to School program told me that parents have SCOLDED HER when she asked them if they would turn off their idling cars. She's now so intimidated and threatened, that she's not saying anything to these parents any longer.

We have had over 30 days of smog alerts in the Metro Atlanta area this year. When I moved here, we didn’t have ANY smog alerts. Now people are just taking them as a matter of fact and a bygone conclusion. Our children are getting asthma at an alarming rate and that smog is an asthma trigger. Asthma is one of the most common chronic illnesses in children and the #1 reason for admission to Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. Cars cause up to 30% of the smog & pollution we breathe each day. Following Milton Friedman's Neighbor Effect, if an economic activity has a detrimental effect on another, you need to pay for it. And I guess the price of gasoline still isn’t high enough to make behavior change and to consider an alternate than driving your child to school.

What has happened in the past 30 years that this “parent-driving” is such a necessary regular routine? It was an extremely rare and special occurrence for a parent to pick up a kid when I was in school in the 70's. As you have evidenced locally, nationally, up to 25% of rush-hour traffic can be attributed to parents driving their kids to school. Instead of immediately looking for government to step in and spend taxpayer funds to increase motor vehicle capacity and throughput, encouraging this behavior, how about putting together other ways of allowing children to walk/ride their bikes or take the bus to school? Apply some type of carrot/stick method to positively encourage NOT having parents drive their kids to school every day.

As Pattie mentions, what's worse with DES, is that the principal HOLDS BACK kids that want to walk or ride their bikes to school UNTIL THE END, adding insult to injury. After all of the carpools & buses have left. Flip this around, please and REWARD those good kids and their parents that encourage this healthy activity.

Woodland is over in the city of Sandy Springs, where their annual budget is $78M, or $829 per capita. Dunwoody's annual budget is $20M, or $434 per capita. Please don't compare our rich neighbors in Sandy Springs to Dunwoody for funding and expenditures.  
The answer is developing a strong Safe Routes to School program, applying the tenets of Complete Streets and applying a carrot/stick to ENCOURAGE taking the bus, walking or riding a bike and DISCOURAGE parents from driving a motor vehicle on to school property.

FYI, about Georgia Law and riding a bike on the sidewalk:
During the 2009 session, Georgia legislators passed Senate Bill 196 to amend Title 40 (motor vehicles and traffic). The amendment allows local governments to let children 12 and under bike on sidewalks, and states that no others can operate vehicles on sidewalks (a bicycle is legally defined as a vehicle in Georgia). Other aspects of the bill increase the fines and jail time for motorists who seriously injure cyclists or pedestrians.
(40-6-144) "Except as provided by resolution or ordinance of a local government for sidewalks within the jurisdiction of such local government authorizing the operation of bicycles on sidewalks by persons 12 years of age or younger, no person shall drive any vehicle upon a sidewalk or sidewalk area except upon a permanent or duly authorized driveway."


What the Dunwoody Ordinance has to say:

I did a text search in our Dunwoody Code for “bicycle” and did not find anything specifically mentioning authorizing riding a bicycle on the sidewalk if they are over the age of 12, etc.

The closest thing I could find was in  Article I, Section 30-5 Skateboards and Bicycles

“Whenever any person is riding a bicycle or skating upon a sidewalk, that person shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give audible signal before overtaking and passing the pedestrian.”

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2 comments:

  1. Joe,

    Sandy Springs does have more money than us, but keep in mind our budget does not include a fire department. You pay for fire protection on your tax bill, and it goes directly to DeKalb. Sandy Springs has its own fire department, and that is one reason why there budget is much higher than ours. If we had our own fire/EMS, our budget would be millions higher (your taxes may not go up, you'd just pay Dunwoody instead of DeKalb). This will also change your per capita comparison. They also pay higher taxes there than here.

    Sandy Springs is in Fulton and receives LOST funds. In DeKalb, we are one of two counties in the state that have a HOST - this, in years past, has put more money in Sandy Springs budget than Dunwoody. Ask Bob Dallas about HOST as he knows it well. I think he was one of the people who pushed for HOST instead of LOST. This year Dunwoody will receive a big bump from HOST due to a decision made by DeKalb changing percentages (20%?).

    I used sandy Springs as a comparison because I see a traffic cop there every morning. Even though SS has more money than us, that does not mean we should not fund an officer for DES in the morning.

    I agree that not enough kids use the bus or walk. This all goes back to the county - building the mega elementary schools. If Austin closes and a new school is built in Perimeter, look for about 400 more cars on the road, twice a day, running kids to and from school.

    The only way to change the behavior is to offer a better alternative (buses that don't pick up so early) or develop a reward/punish program.

    Rick

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  2. And just when I was thinking of giving up my 2 hour roundtrip walk/train commute to and from work for 50 minutes roundtrip of driving...

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