Morning congestion beyond question

By Becky Scheible

East students are used to traffic, but to many this year’s morning jam seems significantly worse, and for no apparent reason.

Lines outside of the main school entrance extend far beyond Weaver Dairy’s turning lanes, especially for those coming from the direction of Family Fare. Students have to wait several traffic light cycles before even reaching East’s entrance.

Rex Gibson, East’s school resource officer and one of the regulators of morning traffic explained that the drop-off circle is a major cause of the traffic buildup. The congestion clears up after drivers pass the circle and proceed to the senior lot, revealing the main source for the buildup to be the circle.

“There’s no way the traffic circle can handle that volume of traffic.” Gibson said. Traffic doesn’t build up until after 8:00a.m., and from 8:20 to 8:40 a.m. is what Gibson considers heavy traffic.

The drop-off circle’s one-lane system, a policy put into action last year, may instigate the backed up traffic. Formerly the circle was two lanes. Gibson explained that safety was the reason for the switch.

According to Gibson, when the circle was still two lanes, drivers were letting students out in the left lane, leaving them to cross the line of cars adjacent to the sidewalk.

“We had to come up with a solution to alleviate that,” Gibson said. Although there were a few complaints, students’ safety was a priority over having less traffic in the morning. Currently the left lane is only to be used for teachers and visitors, and the right lane is for dropping students off.

Gibson stressed that if the school had the money, he would completely reconstruct the drop-off circle to allow for easier and swifter unloading. But the renovation would put a dent in the school’s budget.

“You’re talking thousands of dollars,” Gibson said. Principal Eileen Tully and Gibson have considered reconstruction before.

Junior and avid carpooler Curran Nelson believes that traffic surrounding the drop-off circle could be greatly reduced if more students carpooled.

“I think it would definitely reduce the super long car line in the morning, which would be great,” said Nelson, who gets driven to school with his neighbor.

Although the student parking lot now seems barren, more students drive to school this year than in the years prior, leading to more cars occupying East’s entrance and roads.

“We actually sold more student parking spaces this year than last,” Tully said.

Scanty school bus usage has caused some of the increased traffic at East as well. High school students normally choose other methods of transportation over the school bus, which leads to many more cars filing into the school. Chapel Hill’s director of transportation, Mary Lin Truelove, said that many kids would rather drive, get driven, or take a city bus to school than use a school bus.

“It’s not normally the first choice of a high school student,” she said.

The drop-off circle, the lack of carpooling and the lack of school bus use all contribute to morning traffic at East. With no plan on the horizon for funding Gibson’s reconstruction plan, the best he said students can do is to carpool or travel to the sophomore parking lot to be dropped off.

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