A New Jam for Branson Traffic

The coveted down-the-hill parking spots with traffic cones preventing illegal parking during sports games

The coveted down-the-hill parking spots with traffic cones preventing illegal parking during sports games. Photo: Aidan Linscott

In mid-February, Ned Pinger, Branson’s assistant head of school for strategic initiatives, sent an email to the student body and faculty announcing changes to Branson’s parking policies. The changes, unexpected, were met with a wide range of opinions.

In the email, Pinger states that these new guidelines are “an effort to reduce the school’s environmental footprint and its traffic impact on the surrounding community.”  The changes for the 2016-2017 school year and after are as follows: only juniors and seniors will be able to drive, vehicles with one person parking in the St. Anselm’s lot will pay $550 for a permit, vehicles with two people in St. Anselm’s will pay $275, carpools of three or more in St. Anselm’s can receive a permit for free, and priority for on-campus parking spots will be given to carpools of four or more.

When asked about these modifications, English teachers Jeff Symonds and Dr. Susee Witt report that they are unaware of Branson’s parking policies.  “I don’t really have a formed opinion because I didn’t realize any of that was the case,” Jeff says, referring to the new cost of parking without a carpool.  Across the board, it seems that the faculty are “unaware that there [is] charging involved with student parking.”

Senior Campbell Day expressed her concern that these modifications will make it harder for students to move to and from school, such as to after school sports practice. “Seniors, juniors, and sophomores drive” to go to practice, and “a lot of people just take the bus…but these changes are going to make it even harder,” Campbell says.  With 10th graders unable to drive, the bus to COM, Strawberry, and San Francisco will be quite crowded leaving campus. Another senior, Grace Wilkins, adds, “I think it’s going to be a point of contention because people don’t like paying for things that used to be free.”  Considering the disparity in quality between spots on-campus and in St. Anselm’s, “the addition of the money component” doesn’t seem justifiable,” Campbell says.

Other students are concerned about the universality of the new parking regulations.  “I was kind of angry,” says junior Robin Tuscher, “because I live really far from campus,” and it’s hard to find people for carpools. Junior Zoe Hebermann, in a situation similar to Robin’s, agrees, “I need to drive myself places after school, so it’s ridiculous for someone in my situation to have to pay” that much.

While sophomores, juniors, and seniors all seemed initially frustrated with the new changes, the Class of 2019 had a different outlook on the situation.  Bigger carpools “are better for the environment,” says Hailey Weisel, “so I think [the changes] are a good idea overall.” The class’s general attitude towards the changes is simply that they may be an “inconvenience.” “They won’t affect us much,” says Kate Swart.

Ned Pinger spoke to The Blazer after the email was sent, and presented some clarifying information that will likely ease some of panicked and frustrated minds of the students. These changes came from Pinger with “Ellen Moceri, the senior administration, and the board” contributing their thoughts as well. This parking overhaul was introduced “to improve [Branson’s] relationship with the Town of Ross” and to have a more “sustainable model” with respect to “everyone’s understanding of climate change.”

The aforementioned concerns from a host of students across all grade levels will be heard appropriately.  “We will not be arbitrary,” Pinger says, and “every [complaint or] case will be handled individually.” “There will be exceptions if there is a strong argument” because Pinger “doesn’t want it to be seen as black and white:” a gray area does exist.

The addition of cost to parking in St. Anselm’s solely exists as a means “to discourage single drivers…and provide incentive for carpools.” If there are any issues with meeting cost, finding people to drive, etc. those issues will be handled “on a case-by-case basis.”

Additionally, Pinger says that it is likely the Branson community “will become increasingly independent on school buses,” adding more routes, increasing capacity, reach, and more. Branson “will explore all options to make sure that students have plenty of transportation options after school,” states Pinger.

If any questions remained unanswered, please direct them to ned_pinger@branson.org.