This is back to school day in Austin ISD and as a parent – believe it or not — at Doss Elementary School, I was pleased this morning to see a police officer on a motorcycle on hand to slow down the traffic on Far West Boulevard – or so I thought.
Far West is not an idyllic residential lane. It is a major thoroughfare that runs alongside the school. Doss is a very overcrowded campus – at least two new portables were moved in over the summer – and on-street parking is limited. It also is a school that, despite the perils of Far West, encourages children to ride their bikes to school, and there have been a couple of close calls.
Traffic is slowed by a very capable (and brave) crossing guard, but sometimes she can use some help with drivers who regard the school zone as little more than an inconvenience on their way to work. A cop on a motorcycle can work wonders, especially on the first day of school, when for about 15 or 20 minutes the school zone is pretty chaotic.
But this particular officer wasn’t working wonders with Far West traffic. Instead, he was patrolling a large, mostly empty, private parking lot across the street, shooing away parents who dared to try to park there for five or 10 minutes to walk their kids across the street to class. I hope I and other taxpayers weren’t paying him.
Even if he was off-duty and had been hired by the tenants of the shopping center, it was outrageous to watch him drive around, guarding a private parking lot, when he should have been making sure children got to school safely.
If the shopping center tenants paid him, shame of them. The main tenants include Far West Optical, which doesn’t open until 9 a.m., one hour after the Doss tardy bell rings, and Eye Vet, which opens at 8, the same time classes start, which means parents already would be clearing out of the lot before most customers arrive.
I suspect this scenario may have been playing out in many other school neighborhoods in Austin and throughout urban Texas, where parking is increasingly becoming scarce. And, in some cases, there may be justification for businesses declaring their parking lots off-limits.
But this isn’t the case at Doss, where the bad neighbors should reconsider their selfish stance and make a real contribution to school safety, a temporary parking haven for parents who are simply trying to get their kids to school in one piece.
I was told later that there may have been a second motorcycle officer at Doss keeping an eye on Far West. I didn’t see him, but, even so, the first officer could have found better use of his time than guarding a private parking lot that was attractive only to Doss parents at that time of morning. Maybe he could have been slowing traffic in another school zone.