Plans taking shape in North Plainfield

The North Plainfield ShapingNJ project in is beginning to take shape. In April, we awarded the first, second, and third place prizes in the “Let’s Redesign Stony Brook Playground.” The drawings of the winners and the top seven finalists are on our Facebook page at: facebook.com/pages/North-Plainfield-Safe-Routes-to-School. The parent and student recommendations produced through this contest will be considered for our current project, as well as, future planning efforts. We would like to thank all our participants for their valuable contributions.

In this post, we will focus our attention on the recently completed NPSRTS Travel and Recreation Survey at Stony Brook, West End, East End and Somerset Schools. The survey tool was designed to gather information about student walking behavior, school travel trends, and the current use of recreational playgrounds within North Plainfield. The survey was promoted through our facebook page, in-school flyers, and the distribution of printed surveys to parents. Parents had the option to complete the survey in print or online in either English or Spanish.

Stony Brook had our highest response rate at 15% and is the location of our playground expansion project. Currently about 64% of parents indicate that they drive students to this location and they generally find a place to park within 1-10 minutes of arrival. But, 50% of respondents report that they sometimes or routinely circle the block to find a parking space. Parking is limited in the area but based on this data appears to be available for most drivers when they need it.

In the morning, we see that most respondents 43%, arrive either 10-15 minutes before opening or near opening time and only 21% arrive 15-30 minutes or more before the opening bell. It appears that morning traffic could be reduced by parents shifting to an earlier arrival time or walking children to school. If this was done on a regular basis, traffic conditions might improve and reduce some of the need for traffic circling at the school.

In the afternoon, we see that 43% indicated that they arrived 10-15 minutes before or near dismissal time and 19% stated that they arrive 15-30 minutes or more before dismissal time. It appears that afternoon traffic could be reduced by parents shifting to an earlier arrival time or walking children home from school. If this was done on a regular basis, traffic conditions might improve and perhaps reduce some of the need for traffic circling at the school.

Overall, 60% of parents indicated that they thought major improvements were needed in parking. 21% indicated that minor improvements would be needed and 18% had no opinion or felt the situation was fine. However, given the layout of the current geography of the property and street configuration a major infrastructure changes would be difficult to accomplish.

Walking behavior in North Plainfield is strong, 73% of parents indicated that they routinely or occasionally walked around their neighborhood and community with their child. A smaller subset routinely or occasionally walks on a regular basis to and from school. We believe that programs like Walk-to-School Day have a high potential to get more children to walk to/from school in walking groups. Some 40% of respondents indicated that their children had participated in a Walk-to-School Day this year and 59% of parents indicated that sidewalks were in good to fair condition within the borough.

How does this impact the playground expansion plan? We believe that increased use of walking as a primary means of getting to and from school will also increase the future use of our playground after-school with parent supervision. In our survey we found that the current playground is only being used about 32% by respondents on a routine or occasional basis. For comparison purposes Green Acres Park receives 76% routine or occasional use by the same respondents. After the playground improvements we would like to see routine or occasional use rise by at least 22%. We will survey our parents again after the playground improvements are completed.

Finally, we want you to know that we will be planning a special North Plainfield Safe Routes to School event on June 10th 2014 (Rain date June 11th). At this event, we will be hosting a ground breaking event for the new playground, unveiling photos of the new playground equipment, honoring our crossing guards with a special ceremony, and announcing the winners of the Miles that Matter program for 2013-2014. We also have special guests from the NJ Health Department representing ShapingNJ, New Jersey Department of Transportation, North Plainfield Borough Administration, North Plainfield Board of Education, North Plainfield Police Department, and Ridewise TMA. We will provide more information in our next post.

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