School has been out since Thursday, December 3rd, with students returning to school today. Thursday was also the day a Powell Elementary 2nd grader was struck by a car as he darted across Upshur Street (reportedly with only minor injuries as a result).
With the return of students to Powell came the return of double-parked parents, people who apparently refuse to care about the dangers this action poses, not respecting others. This "me first" attitude is causing havoc on Upshur and Taylor, resulting in damaged vehicles and the potential for a more serious tragedy.
Waiting behind one of the double-parked cars this morning was an MPD SUV. But the officers weren't enforcing the law, they were waiting for the parent to off-load children before driving on, with the officers taking no action.
After seeing this, I sent an email to Commander Manlapaz, the Fourth District Commander, as well as Lieutenant Figueras, the PSA 404 manager for that stretch of Upshur. The issues with Taylor and Upshur are a DDOT problem that they need to address; enforcing the law is an MPD responsibility.
While it's understandable that one patrol car, transiting the block, can't solve the bigger problems, think about the impact of this morning's interaction: If the officers had hit their lights and got on their PA to loudly instruct the driver not to double-park, not only would the driver be warned but every other parent and driver would hear it and know that MPD was aware. It would encourage compliance.
Now think of the reverse: By doing nothing, parents and drivers perceive that MPD won't take action and feel free to park as they'd like, illegally and unsafely. This second scenario, this morning's actual situation, further weakens the call by the Powell administration and parent groups for greater awareness and safety.
It's currently unrealistic to require MPD to post an officer during drop off / pick up times (I've recommended a Crossing Guard to move parents along in front of Powell). Traffic and pedestrian safety at this location is a DDOT, DPW and DCPS issue, but enforcement is an MPD issue. Officers transiting that stretch of Upshur should be more proactive in the school zone.
Both Commander Manlapaz and Lieutenant Figueras responded very quickly, and the LT said that he has instructed the "day-work and evening sergeants... and officers will be asked to enforce the traffic regulations."
Big appreciation that both MPD leaders addressed the issue so quickly. MPD is stretched to accommodate the existing patrols in Petworth (and across the city), and assigning an officer full-time at Powell is probably not the best use of MPD resources. (Again, a crossing guard and roadway changes / signage / traffic calming measures are a better and likelier course of action.) But as Upshur is a main thoroughfare, having the officers be proactive while driving past the school will help.
DDOT needs to take a big picture, holistic approach to the problems along Upshur, Taylor, Piney Branch and 14th. Petworth is growing, traffic is increasing. Human errors and mistakes will always happen, but the city needs to put in place changes that will minimize those errors from occurring.
So be forewarned if you double-park, MPD will be watching.
Related: Traffic, bad driving and two children struck by cars - what will DC do to break its impasse near Powell? (December 4, 2015)