School works at helping parents set up carpools

September 5, 2012 9:21:06 PM PDT
Have you ever wondered why during rush hour nobody's rushing anywhere? That's a question the city of Palo Alto asked when they looked at the traffic nightmare every morning and afternoon around some elementary schools. They're testing a new high tech solution to that problem.

For kids, getting out of school is the best part of the school day, but for parents waiting in traffic jams, not so much.

"The traffic here is pretty outrageous at times, it's kind of scary at times actually," Ohlone Elementary School Principal Bill Overton said.

The school that was built for 300 kids now holds closer to 600. More than half of the students ride solo to and from school with a parent who then ends up sitting in traffic.

So Overton was thrilled when the city asked to try something new. It actually came from an old idea -- a map that used to hang in the school's front office.

The kindergartens were one color, first graders were another color, second graders and so on," Safe Routes To School Coordinator Kathy Durham said. "It helps identify people who live in your neighborhood."

People who just might want to carpool.

Palo Alto calls the new website School Pool. It doesn't just match you up, it lets you create a shared calendar of who's driving, email all the parents and send out a mass text message if something changes.

"We're trying to just one by one take as many cars out of the equation as possible," PTA traffic safety volunteer Kirstin Sego said.

Just in case parents need an extra push, the school's providing special parking spots for carpools.

But some parents say they've discovered the other benefits of carpooling are just as sweet. For Nico Janik, it's about saving the environment and cutting down traffic, but for the kids, it's about fun.

"I think the kids are having a lot more fun when they get to spend more time with their friends; I love listening to them talking to each other about their day," Janik said.

But school pool doesn't stop there; it also lets parents organize walking and bike pools.


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