(Update: As described the March 2018 article titled LMST Open Space and School Construction, a favorable decision was made in late 2017 regarding providing a pedestrian-oriented site design and construction moved ahead in the Spring of 2018.)
Representatives from Nova Scotia government provided the general public with an opportunity to discuss options regarding site design for Le Marchant St. Thomas Elementary School in a public consultation held at Gorsebrook Junior High School on April 4th. Several people in the meeting expressed their appreciation regarding the province’s willingness to engage in a dialog, looking for a positive outcome for the provincial government, the school district, and the public.
The meeting was intended solicit input to help answer two questions, namely:
- Where should 46 parking spaces be placed?
- Is a drop off-loop appropriate for the school?
Placement of Parking
Three parking options were presented by the provincial team:
- Option 1 – Place all 46 spaces on the original LMST site.
- Option 2 – Place 40 spaces on the Annex school site across the street, and keep just 6 spaces (i.e., handicapped parking etc.) on the LMST site.
- Option 3 – (Referred to by the Province as the “Hybrid Plan”) Place 29 spaces along the side of LMST and put the remaining 17 spaces on the Annex site. Three variants of Option 3 were presented, two of which would require some portion of the existing playground at the Annex site to be converted to parking. A third variant, known as “Option 3C” would preserve the playground and tuck additional spaces between the playground and the Annex building similar to what appears below.
David Jakeman, president of the LMST School Advisory Committee, presented another approach which was subsequently referred to as Option 4. It is similar to Option 3C in that 29 spaces appear along the side of LMST. Option 4 is different however, in that it reasonably assumes that the 50+ spaces already on the Annex site should be sufficient to serve both the Annex school and the balance of parking requirements for LMST.
Late in the meeting, - in an attempt to get some sense of the public's preferences - the facilitators informally surveyed those in attendance, asking for a show of support (by hand) for each of the three options presented by the provincial team. Option 1 received a small amount of support. Option 2 received no support. Option 3C received the vast majority of support. The facilitators indicated they would look into Option 4, which would have plausibly been the favored approach from the majority of those in attendance.
Although there are no guarantees, the hope for many is that parking is de-emphasized by placing it to the side of the new LMST building and preserving the existing Annex playground – preferably by leveraging a small number of the 50+ spaces as suggested by David Jakeman.
Drop-off Loop at LMST Creates a Collision Zone for Children
Discussion regarding the suitability of a drop-off loop for LMST occurred approximately 2 hours into the meeting. By this time, the audience was smaller due to people needing to leave to meet family commitments. LMST vice principal Monica Stoilov spoke forcefully in favor of a drop-off loop. Another person in audience voiced support for the idea and a small number expressed support by show of hands suggesting vice principal Stoilov’s views are not hers alone.
At LMST, a drop-off loop is particularly problematic because the increasing numbers of parents who will most certainly use the loop will be using the same physical space used by children arriving and departing by foot each day. Compare and contrast the undesirable loop scenario with the preferred non-loop scenario.
Drop-off Loop Scenario has the following costs:
- Decreased air quality immediately in front of school entrance
- Conflict between children and moving vehicles
- Reduced amount of open space immediately in front of school
Preferred Non-Loop Scenario offers the following benefits:
- Increased Air Quality in front of school entrance
- Absence of conflict between children and moving vehicles
- Larger amount of open space immediately in front of school
An “efficiently” operating loop means that large numbers of vehicles will cross paths with small pedestrians each day, creating a collision zone that could produce a child pmvc (i.e, pedestrian motor vehicle collision). The preferred approach is to allow the front of LMST to serve as a safe, car-free space in which children are welcomed by a plaza/open space, and parents can catch up with one another and watch their children breathing in something other than car exhaust.
Transportation research completed at York University and published in the Journal of Traffic Injury Prevention states that the solution to LMST's inevitably growing traffic concerns lies not with building auto-centric infrastructure in walkable communities but rather an emphasis on active transportation. The hope is that the province and HRSB agree.