The Examiner U-46 News Feed
Bartlett families having U-46 bus stop conflict
By Seth Hancock
A pair of Bartlett parents say they have been met with resistance by School District U-46 in their attempt to seek a safer bus stop for their elementary school aged children.
Currently, five elementary school students between the families of Liz and Vince Abate as well as Kali and Mark Zanona are picked up and dropped off at the intersection of Devon Avenue and Western Avenue with the stop on the north side forcing the children to cross Devon Avenue, a major street in Bartlett. Both the Abates and Zonanas said another family is expected to move in this year adding more students to the stop.
The posted speed limit on Devon Avenue is 25 miles per hour (mph), but a 2017 speed study by the Village of Bartlett showed that 93 percent of traffic on the road exceeds that limit with an average speed of 30 to 37 mph depending on certain factors, like direction of traffic.
The families have made a request with the district to move that stop to the south side, a request they say the district has honored in previous years, and they have yet to receive a satisfactory answer as to why the change won’t be made. Kali Zanona said they have middle school children who use the same stop, but they are not as worried about their ability to cross Devon Avenue safely.
Zanona said that in the 2017-2018 school year the stop started on the north side and the district responded to her families request that year to move the stop to the south side. She said “it was effortless.”
By the 2018-2019 year, the stop was moved back to the north side and it has remained there this year and the families have been “dealing with this daily” since then, according to the Abates, sending emails to taking video of the stop proving the unsafe nature of the bus stop.
“We just don’t understand why the district is so resistant,” Liz Abate said. “It seems to me that it is a simple switch.”
Zanona said that she’s been met with excuses by the district including that changing the stop would affect pickup times for other families and switching to the south side may add time to the route that is not in the district’s budget. Zanona said the stop is the first on the route and they have been willing to have their children be picked up earlier as not to affect other families, and they have offered a route redesign that would not affect anyone but the district has been unwilling to work with them or explain why these weren’t feasible requests.
The Examiner asked the district why it was not feasible to move the stop to the south side if it was moved back in 2017-2018?
“Moving the stop location is not necessary,” said Mary Fergus, director of school and community relations. “There is already a stop on both sides on Devon. The Devon Avenue and Holly (Drive) stop accommodates that south side of Devon, and our stop at Devon and Western [is] to provide a stop on the north end.”
In 2016-2017, the stop at Devon and Western was on both sides according to Fergus but after a review “we modified our route to eliminate backing up on a residential street in order to come back down Devon and make the stop on the south side at Pinoak (Drive) and Devon.”
Fergus added: “During this transition, we worked closely with the Bartlett Police and the Bartlett City Council in determining the safety of this area. After the city completed numerous traffic studies and installed a crosswalk and pedestrian crossing signs at Devon and Western, this intersection was determined safe for students to cross and catch the bus. The city decided that Western Avenue was the best location to install the crosswalk due to the fact that this intersection had the best visibility of oncoming traffic.”
For both Abate and Zanona, this is not a valid response to their concerns with Zanona saying “our designated stop is Devon and Western” and the “assertion that the district worked closely with the village to install a crosswalk to aid children crossing Devon is moot, as the bus does not even stop in it and due to where the bus does stop, students disembark directly into the road, completely on the opposite side of the street from the crosswalk located on the east side of Western.”
Abate also said using the Holly Drive stop also would require her kids to use village owned sidewalks that during the winter are covered with snow and ice with nobody there to remove it.
Zanona said it was misleading to suggest the change was made to alleviate traffic congestion as “cars are required to stop and allow pedestrians to cross, which would thus cause a delay to residential traffic” regardless of the stop’s location.
“We are incredibly discouraged and disappointed by the District’s continued resistance to engaging in proactive and collaborative problem-solving to ensure the safety of our children,” Zanona said. “We have offered an amenable solution that does not have a negative impact on any parties involved, and the District’s continued resistance feels arbitrary and personal. We too will continue to pursue this with whatever means are necessary until the issue is resolved. At the end of the day, shouldn’t we all have the same goal of keeping our children, their students, safe in common?”
Abate said her primary concern is safety, and “crossing Devon is not a safe choice for children each day.”
Initial emails were ignored by the district according to Abate until going above Jeff Prowell, director of transportation, and they have provided U-46 with video showing that “several cars passed the stopped bus, completely unaware that children were going to cross.” The video was also shared with The Examiner.
“Only after our persistence, did this actually change to be even remotely safe,” Abate said. “The bus now turns on to Devon to make this stop. This new crosswalk does not change the speed of the vehicles on the road, or guarantee a car will stop. A visit to the stop would also show that the stop does not even use the crosswalk as described.”
Abate said that instead of working with the families, the district’s response has been that they can seek other options on their own for transporting their children.
“The claim that this the best location for children to cross and catch a bus is still ignoring the fact that they should not have to cross a high traffic road, or navigate snow and ice,” Abate said. “The last response provided by Jeffrey Powell stated that stop arm violators and snow removal are not in the control of the transportation and safety department. We have never asked for either of these things be prevented directly by the school district, we have only asked that they choose a stop that reduces the likelihood that our children will be harmed when traveling to school when others make these mistakes.”
In general, if a parent makes a request to have a bus stop moved, Fergus said: “Our Transportation Department listens to concerns about a particular situation, talks with parents, school administrators, local law enforcement departments and municipalities, visits the location in question, and importantly, follows relevant laws and guidelines.”