Q&A - Prospect Lake Elementary School Safety Problem

Q&A ImageProspect Lake Elementary School is located in the 200 block of Prospect Lake Rd. A few years ago another nearby elementary school was shut down and all the students were sent here. The school population doubled.

This resulted in an acute parking problem for parents driving their kids to school. This is a semi-rural area with no bus service and only those who live within a kilometre can walk. If you look at Google maps street view you will see the situation:

There is a very narrow sidewalk flanked by a very deep ditch. There is no street parking allowed anywhere on the west side of the school.

Parents park on the sidewalk because that is the only place to go. The school parking lot is woefully inadequate. The street is posted as a no parking zone.

The result is no one, kids, parents, or other pedestrians can use the sidewalk. Everyone is forced to walk on the pavement during busy times.

view along the road view along the road view along the road

Click on the image to see a larger version.

It is a collision waiting to happen.

Local police do not ticket the cars because they are understaffed. On a good day there are only 3 officers on duty in the traffic unit and they are responsible for over 270 km of streets.

The way I see it there are several parties that aren't doing their job:

  • The school board is too cheap to provide adequate parking, even though they have lots of available space.
  • The parents are parking illegally and putting themselves and their kids in grave danger.
  • The Police are not ticketing for parking in a no parking zone and also for partially blocking the road.

It is a sad situation and I can see no resolution until there is a serious accident or a death.

Comments

To Start

I've invited Saanich PD, the school and the parents advisory committee to comment. Hopefully we'll hear something back shortly.

In the meantime, I do have an article on the site to share from another school in the region, Hans Helgeson Elementary.

Response from Saanich PD

Here are some points and insights we can provide on this.

Parking is a regulated by the Municipality, not the police. Questions and concerns regarding this should therefore be direct to them. This is the same for the layout of the road. Concerns should be directed to the Municipality.

The enforcement of parking is the responsibility of the parking enforcement officer and is a complaint based process. When a complaint is received, it is then investigated by the parking enforcement officer or a police officer, who will take the appropriate action for that specific incident (such as a parking offence notice, towing, etc). So without a complaint at the time of the parking violation, it is unfortunately not without our resource capacity to be on site to monitor the situation.

I want to correct some information also about our staffing levels in our Traffic Safety Unit (TSU) and the amount of roadway we are responsible for. Currently we have 12 officers assigned to TSU (on rotating shifts) and they cover almost 600 km of roadway in Saanich. Their priorities are enforcing the Motor Vehicle Act and responding to collisions. Specific to the area of Prospect Lake, since the beginning of 2018, we have issued more than 110 violation tickets for driving offences that are the biggest contributors to crashes…speed, distracted driving and impaired driving.

We are certainly aware of traffic concerns in this area and regularly conduct enforcement in it. Our stats do not provide evidence though that the parking situation at the school has contributed to collisions, and thus we focus on the primary driving behaviours that do (noted above).

District of Saanich

The District of Saanich has a Safe Routes to School page on it's web site.

That page contains an Active and Safe Routes to School summary dated 2017 / 2018.

Of interest is the mention of Drive to Five, a program that sees students picked up and dropped off at locations that are a few minutes walk from the school to reduce vehicle congestion at the school itself.

Here is the reply that I received to my query:

We are working on some design concepts with a traffic engineering firm to improve the paths to the drive to 5 locations as well as the West Saanich and Prospect Lake Rd. intersection. These off-site locations are a short walk for the parents and children and were suggested as a way to decrease some of the parking pressure right at the school. We don't have any concepts ready yet but information can be found on our projects page as updates become available, hopefully later this fall.

Prospect Lake Elementary School

The school district is also concerned with the limitations to parking and traffic flow at Prospect Lake Elementary.

Last fall the school district completed a parking and traffic flow study and is reviewing options, in consultation with the District of Saanich, to address the issues identified.

The District of Saanich is also reviewing options for improving the intersection at Prospect Lake Road and West Saanich Road and for improving pedestrian access to the school and nearby businesses.

The addition of parking is complicated by the fact that the school district does not own the land on either side (east and west) of the existing parking lot.

Good research there, eh?

Sometimes, with issues like this, it seems as though there will only be a focused response on the issue after somebody has been hurt (or worse).

As a separate question, is it not possible for the local police force (rather than the bylaws people) to write tickets under the Motor Vehicle Act?

It appears that they've selected (I think that's the term) which laws they have chosen to enforce - and which to ignore as being some other agency's problem.

Thanks!

This has actually been an easy one to research. Everyone I e-mailed to ask has responded quickly and they have chosen to share. I've also found some of the information just by searching the web sites involved.

From the police perspective, it's easier to just show up with a tow truck and remove anything that is parked where it should not be. Violation tickets need to be served personally and cannot be left under the wiper, but they also have the authority to issue bylaw tickets which can be left under the wiper.

Saanich Police Enforcement

Yes, you are correct; they are very selective about what they choose to enforce. If you parked in a no parking zone, or on the sidewalk, in any other municipality who do you think would issue you a ticket?

To be fair to the Saanich PD their traffic unit is miniscule. The total force is 181, and out of that only 12 are in the traffic unit. That is only 6.6% of the force. An officer from that unit told me that on a good day, due to training, sick time, vacations, etc. there are only 3 officers on one of the two shifts. That's 3 bodies for 600km of roads, which is rather pathetic. But if traffic is not a priority for the politicians then I'm sure the Police will think of something more exciting to do. A few years ago the Mayor told me 25% of the force was in the traffic unit.

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