Scarborough Community Council voted on Oct. 10 to reduce the school bus loading zone in front of Donwood Park Junior Public School. This would also make the rest of the area unavailable for parking.
The school is located near Ellesmere Road and Midland Avenue with houses aligned densely across a narrow street. Heavy traffic congestion caused school staff and parents to raise the issue.
Mahmood Saleem, who has two children attending Donwood Park, said traffic caused by a line of parking along the school was unsafe and inconvenient.
“In the morning, at least 15 cars are parked, which makes my son and I walk all the way around the street. It’s especially hard in the winter with ice on the ground,” Saleem said.
Scarborough district’s traffic operations manager Marko Oinonen said a series of parent-teacher council meetings discussed the children’s safety caused by the traffic.
“The school bus loading zone was large with only one mini-bus using the space. It precluded the rest of the street in that zone being used for the pick-up and drop-off,” Oinonen said.
He added that the rest of the street will be a no-parking zone, in which only pick-up and drop-offs would be allowed.
“In the current loading zone, you can park there and do anything there,” he said.
Stock Transportation’s safety manager Joanne Antoine stood next to the loading zone and talked to every bus driver from the company.
“You’ve got to use the school bus loading zone. They’re [community members] complaining. You must,” Antoine said. “I get emails with complaints from community that our drivers are stopping at unsafe places.”
She said she agreed the current loading zone is misplaced, because the zone begins at a point where school staff is unable to watch children getting on and off the bus. She added this causes the drivers to stop outside the zone.
“It’s not much of the loading zone. It’s not big enough,” she said.
Saleem said he welcomes the city’s decision to prohibit parking, but not the school bus loading zone cut.
“Why are they shrinking the loading zone? I don’t understand,” he said. “Sometimes there are three to four buses coming together.”
Antoine explained that the school is one of the Toronto District School Board’s designated transfer points where school buses from other schools are able to pick up and drop off their children.
“At least seven buses came ever since I came here; one in full length and six small ones,” she said after being in the area for half an hour. “It [the loading zone] should be extended from where it is now to all the way back.”
The school refused to discuss the matter further, because the principal is on leave. But Oinonen explained the solution was to ease traffic for the entire community.
“It [the decision] was more to control the parent parking,” Oinonen said. “It was brought out from the councillor and school at the time that the more the school bus loading zone is provided, the less room for other people.”
He estimated it will take four to six weeks until the change is applied.