South Los Altos parents: Bring on the buses to improve safety

Town Crier file photo
A Montclaire Elementary School student gets off the bus on the first day of school last August. Parents in south Los Altos have asked the school district to provide more buses.

This is the second in a two-part series on traffic safety in south Los Altos. The first, "Standing up for safe school routes," was published in the Town Crier's June 7 edition.

What many residents in south Los Altos consider dangerous routes to school along Grant Road – emphasized by a car-versus-bike collision earlier this year – prompted parents to petition the Cupertino Union School District and the city of Los Altos for bus routes.

Although the district seems open to the proposal, according to parent Debbie Crouse, leadership changes within the district will delay its development until the summer. In the meantime, Crouse and fellow Los Altos resident Stacy Banerjee have asked city officials to consider busing.

“If Los Altos is considering busing to help out with safe routes, we could be a potential pilot group considered for busing,” Crouse said.

She and Banerjee, the petition organizer, met with Los Altos Public Works Director Susanna Chan May 9, and Crouse said Chan was open to working with them on safe routes. However, the department is short staffed, according to Chan, so such action may be delayed.

“Our biggest breakthrough was an understanding that we are in a situation of Los Altos children crossing multiple city borders and street jurisdictions,” Crouse said. “We are asking the city of Los Altos to be a champion for our children.”

Crouse added that she and Banerjee plan to work over the summer on establishing busing to Cupertino Middle School with the hope that it will be a viable option for the next school year.

Safety measures

In the meantime, the Los Altos Public Works Department is collaborating with the Cupertino Union School District to improve safety around Montclaire Elementary School, spurred by the school’s parent-teacher organization.

According to Cedric Novenario, interviewed in his last week as Los Altos’ transportation services manager in late March, safety measures would include no-parking areas around curbs, increased pedestrian signage, bike sharrows (shared-line markings) and stop bars painted before crosswalks. A stop sign has been proposed for the intersection of St. Joseph Avenue and St. Matthew Way, as well as shoulder striping and bike sharrows on Deodara Drive.

“We have an annual project called Annual Street Striping, so the striping improvements can be done as part of that package in the summer,” said Novenario, who organized walking tours during the school year so that parents could point out areas of concern around Montclaire. “As far as the signage, it’s a matter of issuing a work order and getting that work order signed.”

Although Crouse and fellow Cupertino Middle parent Patricia Steele – whose daughter was injured in the car-versus-bicycle collision – said coordinating safe routes through an area of a school district serving two cities is challenging, Novenario noted that “the only thing that may be difficult is, at some point, our boundaries do end and the kids continue on to schools like Cupertino Middle and Homestead High, and those jurisdictions need to take over in terms of what they need to do to make similar improvements.”

Novenario added that the city holds quarterly meetings with a representative from the Metropolitan Transportation Planning Organization, a member of the Cupertino Union School District board and Montclaire Principal Mike Cellini to discuss traffic problems near the school.

To facilitate further discussion between families from south Los Altos and the Cupertino district, Los Altos City Councilwomen Lynette Lee Eng and Jeannie Bruins meet regularly with school board members Soma McCandless and Phyllis Vogel to discuss student safety improvements. The first meeting occurred March 9. While no recommendations were made, the group agreed to continue meeting regularly, according to Vogel.

“We have just begun discussions about how we can work together to improve student safety,” Vogel said. “No decisions will be made by this group, but any recommendations will be taken to the entire CUSD board and the entire Los Altos City Council for discussion and action.”

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