Implementation continues for plans to make Charlottesville walk zones safer

There are eight days left until classes begin for pupils in Charlottesville City Schools, and more will be walking to school due to a severe lack of people currently employed to drive school buses. 

“Due to the ongoing bus driver shortage, we have expanded our ‘walk zones’ to 0.75 miles for the elementary schools, and 1.25 miles for Walker, Buford, and [Charlottesville High School],” reads an email sent to interested parties. “This change brings our walk zones closer to regional and national norms.”

One mitigation is the installation of temporary way-finding signs along paths to schools to guide students. The city is also looking for people or teams to apply to be crossing guards. You can take a look here or share with friends and family and the gig pays between $16 and $18 an hour. 

Deputy City Manager Sam Sanders told City Council last night that the Public Works Department continues to work with the school system to work on their list of proposed improvements. 

“Sixty-one intersections have been striped to date, and twelve of those were brand new and we’ll have another eleven of those crosswalks done this week,” Sanders said. “Eight more of those are still being planned and we’ll be able to those done before school starts. 

Sanders said signage has been installed and Charlottesville Area Transit is working to get information out about how Route 9 might be used to get students to Walker Upper Elementary School and Charlottesville High School. 

“With the support of parent groups that have been working to identify how they can safely ride the buses back and forth to school,” Sanders said. 

In some cases, the city is using its power to manage traffic to give more priority to pedestrians. 

“We’ve adjusted some signal timing at multiple intersections, including the addition on ‘no turn on red when pedestrians present,’” Sander said. “That’s something we’ve had the ability do to at different times but we’ve added a few more of those in areas where we’ve heard from schools the reports of some serious interactions with cars as people have been trying to cross the roads.” 

One of several maps for enhanced walking maps to Charlottesville schools. Visit the Charlottesville City Schools website for the rest and to learn more. (Credit: Charlottesville City Schools)

At their next meeting on September 6, Council will be presented with some actions they can take, including lowering speed limits and temporarily turning the intersection of Rugby and Rose Hill into a four-way stop. 

“That intersection is going to be getting a new signal project in October but based on a lot of the inquiries that we’ve had in regards to that intersection, we’re thinking we may be able to go ahead and temporarily install a four-way stop at that intersection,” Sanders said. 

Sanders said a four-way-stop will make it easier for crossing guards to get students through a busy intersection on their way to Walker Upper Elementary School. 

Classes in Albemarle County Public Schools also start on August 24. School begins tomorrow in Greene County. 

Before you go: The time to write and research of this article is covered by paid subscribers to Charlottesville Community Engagement. In fact, this particular installment comes from the August 16, 2022 edition of the program. To ensure this research can be sustained, please consider becoming a paid subscriber or contributing monthly through Patreon.

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