School bus traffic brings street closures

JP SOUTH—The controversial new school bus traffic on Carolina Avenue is getting mixed reactions, but is already forcing police to shut down the street for an hour a day, with City and Boston Public Schools (BPS) officials pushing for closing a side street and restricting parking.

“The street patterns need to be controlled,” said BPS spokesperson Matt Wilder, calling for Verona Street to be closed as well. “We feel there shouldn’t be any access to Carolina during dismissal.”

A trial period to see the impact of the bus traffic from the new Mission Hill K-8 School ends today. BPS has scheduled a community meeting for Tues., Oct. 16 at the school to hear feedback. [See JP Agenda listing.]

Bus traffic has always been an issue at the 20 Child St. school, which formerly housed the Agassiz Elementary. The community and BPS worked out a plan years ago that put buses onto Child Street, blocking it for a time, but requiring only a crossing guard.

But the Mission Hill K-8, which moved into the building this fall, has a Carolina Avenue entrance. BPS decided to put bus drop-off and pick-up there with no community input and virtually no notice, which it has apologized for. Carolina is a street with heavier traffic.

Morning bus traffic appears to go relatively smoothly, but afternoon traffic has been an issue. A Gazette visit on Sept. 27 found a long line of buses illegally parked on the sidewalk in front of the school for about 30 minutes. Many of the buses were nearly empty.

BPS originally said the buses would line up at nearby English High School instead of on Carolina Avenue. BPS spokesperson Matt Wilder said they are doing so now, but could not explain why they weren’t last month.

A police cruiser is blocking the eastern end of Carolina, a one-way street, every day so that cars don’t back up behind the buses or endanger students.

Asked whether tying up a police cruiser with traffic duty rather than patrolling is a concern, Capt. Paul Russell, commander of the local E-13 Police Station, said, “Yes.” But, he noted, the cruiser is free to leave on an emergency call and leave drivers to fend for themselves.

He also downplayed the worries of some residents about emergency vehicles not being able to get down Carolina, saying, “That’s not really my concern” because local authorities are aware of the street closure.

“People hate change, and this is what [the controversy] is,” Russell said.

City Councilor Matt O’Malley, who opposed the traffic plan, said he has received some resident complaints but “not many.”

“Some days, it works better than others,” he said.

State Rep. Liz Malia, who lives at the corner of Child and Verona streets, repeated her criticism of BPS for poor communication. She said the community has heard nothing about the police street closure or the plans to shut Verona and remove some parking. She heard about most of those plans from the Gazette.

“Ask them if they talked to the state rep. who lives on Verona,” she said.

Officials continue to monitor the traffic. During the Gazette’s unannounced visit on Sept. 27, Jullianne Doherty, the Mayor’s Office representative for Jamaica Plain, was on the scene and said she visits regularly. Police Sgt. Eric Krause, head of E-13’s Community Service Office, was there as well.

(Gazette Photo by John Ruch) A line marked “First Bus” is spray-painted on Carolina Avenue to show buses where to stop.

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