Some hazards are relatively easy to fix once you bring them to the right person’s attention. Some require consensus and a project plan. Others involve years of meetings, studies, searching for funds, and compromise.
The teams involved with Safe Routes to School are working on problems that fall all along this spectrum. We encourage each of you to have the passion and vision to build our community's Safe Routes to School.
Traffic hazards are often perceived as engineering issues – but in fact correcting a safety problem may involve a combination of engineering, enforcement, education AND encouraging alternatives that reduce congestion near our schools.
The first step in resolving a traffic hazard is to get your information straight. Then make sure that you report the problem to the appropriate group or start with the right resource. There are distinct groups that resolve traffic hazards depending on where the problem physically exists:
- PAUSD School Property
- City of Palo Alto
- Other Jurisdictions
Getting Your Information Straight
Before reporting any problem, make sure you are prepared to discuss the following information. . . .
- Specific location of the problem
- Description of the perceived problem
- Days and times of day when problem occurs
- Dates and times of reported and unreported collisions and near-collisions
- When the problem started
- Opinion as to possible causes of the problem
- Perceived dangers to pedestrians, bicyclists, students, parents, staff, residents, and property as a result of the problem
- Results you hope to achieve (reduced speed, lower traffic volume, better traffic circulation, better parking controls, reduced collisions, reduced risk to pedestrians, better bike parking, other)
- Your name and contact information
Communicating a problem is an important first step. To increase the likelihood that your request will be addressed, it’s best to do it in writing. Written correspondence with supporting photos, data, or other tangible information creates a request that can be tracked, escalated, and is more persuasive.
Following up on your request is also an important step. Reporting an issue does not automatically mean that your issue will get a timely response, given the realities of public sector budgets and staffing today.
Hazards on PAUSD School Property
Most parents notice problems on school property long before the principal, teachers, or other school staff. Bringing these issues forward is an important part of everyone's responsibility to make our schools safer for our children.
There are three groups who can help resolve problems at school:
- School Principal
- PTA Traffic Safety Representative
- City/School Traffic Safety Committee
Please contact your school principal first. The principal is the person of authority at the school, the person who knows the school travel environment and operations, and the person who can oversee a problem-solving process with the school community. The principal is responsible for the overall safety of the school.
Your PTA Traffic Safety Representative is also a great resource to help identify resources and potential solutions to a school property issue. Please click here for a list of who to contact.
If you find that your issue is not getting resolved appropriately then please contact the City/School Traffic Safety Committee (see below for additional information).
Hazards in City of Palo Alto
If a hazard exists around Palo Alto, there are several divisions that attend to issues:
- Public Works
- Police Department
PaloAlto311 is the easiest way to report problems to any of these city departments. PaloAlto311 is a tool for conveniently reporting problems to City of Palo Alto Transportation, PAPD or Public Works via smart phone 24/7. Go to http://www.cityofpaloalto.org/services/paloalto311/make_a_service_request.asp. Or you can install the PaloAlto311 app on your smartphone and make your report there. Put your report to the right person at City Hall more efficiently by using PaloAlto311 to report instead of making a phone call.
If you use PaloAlto311 to report unsafe choices/behaviors of parent drivers, student bicyclists or pedestrians, please also report to school administrator and email@example.com. For crashes that require emergency response, always call 911.
The City of Palo Alto Transportation Division is responsible for parking management, traffic operations in the City, the bicycle system, area transportation studies, public transit service, regional transportation activities, the shuttle system and neighborhood traffic calming.
The Public Works Department is responsible for hazards such as street maintenance, trimming trees/shrubs blocking traffic signs, fixing broken traffic signals, and so on.
The Police Department also manages the adult crossing guards. For additional information please click here for Crossing Guard Issues.
There are also laws in Palo Alto that protect street and side walk visibility. Click here to learn about Project Visibility.
Hazards Involving Other Jurisdictions
Not all streets and roads in Palo Alto are under the jurisdiction of the City of Palo Alto. It's a surprise to most of us as we learn about traffic issues around our community.
The County of Santa Clara manages the Expressways (Oregon/Page Mill, Central, and Foothill). CalTrans manages El Camino Real. Stanford University controls roads and safety on University property. CalTrain manages the railroad crossings and property next to the commuter rail tracks. And, there are various other situations that involve different contacts.
If you have a safety issue regarding these properties, please work with our Transportation Division to identify the right contacts for these organizations. Realize that the City has limited jurisdiction on controlling issues involving these other groups.
City/School Traffic Safety Committee
This committee is the place to bring unresolved school commute safety issues already reported to one of the above groups. This committee is an advisory body that makes recommendations to the City Manager and the Superintendent on issues related to traffic safety on and near PAUSD school sites and along school commute routes.
The CSTSC is co-chaired by Gayle Likens, Transportation Manager, City of Palo Alto and Kathy Durkin, Risk Manager for the PAUSD. There are five additional members of the committee: a representative of the Palo Alto Police Department’s Traffic Team, and three PTA traffic safety representatives (one each representing elementary, middle and high schools).
The CSTSC meets the third Thursday of every month during the school year. Other PTA traffic safety representatives and members of the public are welcome to attend the monthly meetings and report on traffic hazards that affect school commute safety. Meeting times and dates are subject to change at the beginning of each school year depending on committee schedule availability. So, please verify meeting date and location prior to attending.
To find out the next meeting date for the CSTSC, call Sylvia Star-Lack, Transportation Division, at 650-329-2156.