Heritage’s Headache: Leaving the Parking Lot

The calm before the storm.  This is Heritage's parking lot before students are let out to go home.

Nate Workneh

The calm before the storm. This is Heritage's parking lot before students are let out to go home.

Nate Workneh, Staff Writer

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One problem at the end of the school day is leaving. The school’s parking lot is a mosh pit of chaos and confusion. Let’s go back to when this all started. The school was designed at about the same time as when Potomac falls was opened. It was officially opened in 2002 with the same layout as Potomac Falls and Stone bridge. As the years went on, the Heritage parking lot became more and more of an issue.

Mr. Armstrong, with the help of Mrs. Schlegel, oversees the parking lot. They make sure that people are driving safe by stopping those who are driving too fast and breaking the rules. Also they verify that students are parking where they are supposed to, and that they have parking passes. Mr. Armstrong puts out cones to regulate the traffic and occasionally shovels the snow out of parking spots.

“There have been more people driving to school than ever before,” says Mr. Armstrong. This is one of the biggest problems that is causing the chaos in Heritage’s parking lot. New drivers means that more inexperienced drivers will be on the road. However, the overlying problem in the parking lot is the design of it.

Heritage’s parking lot is considered small compared to other schools in LCPS. There is only one entrance in and out of the school which causes choke points when leaving and sometimes entering Heritage. The school was originally designed to have two entrances, but for an unknown reason, they scrapped that idea and only built one entrance. This causes the huge commotion and traffic leaving and sometimes entering the school.  However, at about 4:20-25 the traffic dies down, but before that the frantic rush to get out seems to take forever. This problem is not just present in Heritage. Others schools like Tuscarora have the same problem with one entrance and exit.

When asked if the parking lot situation has progressively gotten better or worse, Mr. Armstrong said, “It seems to me a little bit of both. Some challenges are that there are more students driving than ever before.”  Heritage has gone back and forth between numbered spots and unlabeled spots, allowing students to park wherever as long as they have a pass. This was not a good idea because people without passes would park anywhere making it harder for Mr. Armstrong and Mrs. Schlegel to catch them. The numbered parking spots allow them to identify those without passes much more easily.

A renovation that was added to the lot for the 2018-19 school year was the “don’t-block-the-box” signs at intersections. This is a box with an X through it. By law, “When a driver enters an intersection and is unable to travel all the way through, they prevent cross traffic movement, and endanger other travelers by blocking crosswalks and bike lanes. In other words, blocking the box is unsafe, illegal and causes traffic congestion” (Don’t). It was introduced by a former Heritage student, Chris King. He brought up the idea for his government project and soon implemented that idea the year after.

The school has also put up stop signs in much needed areas, like the entrance/exit with the cones. They added a stop sign there due to a serious crash that happened to two students last year. Other solutions to the parking lot were to add more stop or yield signs in different areas, releasing students earlier or holding them later, and educating drivers more.

The parking lot is also a problem to the students. “Inexperienced drivers don’t know the laws” said Charlie, a senior. He believes that seniors should get out earlier because it can limit the traffic and chaos. Other people like Leah, also a senior, said, “People are dumb and teens are not good drivers” and Kaley who said, “Some people don’t know how to drive, they don’t want to follow rules, or feel entitled enough to break the rules. There is only one exit with a lot of ways to get to it, and no one follows the zipper method.”

Another issue in the parking lot is space. Due to the increase in drivers, the parking spots are starting to full up faster. According  to Mr. Armstrong, the visitor spots need more spaces so they had to take away from transportation parking. They also added 50 more student parking spaces due to the decrease in the transportation parking. However, those new 50 spaces quickly filled up and Mr. Armstrong has to make more spots wherever he can find space. Even with the new parking spots people are still on a waiting list for spots to open up.

This problem will not go away until the school gets to redesign the parking lot, but for now people can try letting people in, being patient, and following all the rules and guidelines. If anyone has any other solution, Mr. Armstrong is open to hear it.    

Sources:

Don’t-Block-The-Box Link