Some days it takes Rodger Koopman an hour to pick up his son from Enloe High School.
Parents line up for carpool outside the East Raleigh school in two or three rows of vehicles, and sometimes traffic backs up all the way to New Bern Avenue.
“It’s problematic, even on the best days,” said Koopman, who is president of Enloe’s parent-teacher association.
In an effort to make the carpool experience less frustrating for parents and safer for students, a group of students from N.C. State University’s industrial engineering department is tackling the problem. They will come up with several potential solutions and present them to Koopman in April.
It’s not clear yet whether the students’ recommendations will focus on infrastructure, like roads, or introducing a new carpool method with enforcement policies. Koopman encouraged them to look at all options.
One issue is the school’s age, Koopman said. Enloe was built in the 1960s to serve the immediate community, with fewer parking spaces and smaller lots. It was expected that most students would walk to the school.
Since then, Raleigh’s population has boomed and Enloe, which enrolls 2,400 students, became a magnet school that attracts students from across the county.
One-half of Enloe students use school buses, and the other half travel to and from school in some other way, said Wake County schools spokeswoman Lisa Luten. The district does not keep track of how many of those students carpool.
“We’re still using this cute little parking area for a fairly significant urban transit problem,” Koopman said.
N.C. State students started the project last month by observing how carpool normally works at Enloe, said industrial engineering professor Anita Vila-Parrish.
“They were amazed that parents have created their own process,” Vila-Parrish said. “Because of the pain of the process, parents developed a workaround.”
Parents often line up in their cars outside the school up to 30 minutes before the final bell rings. As the line snakes out toward New Bern Avenue, drivers create another line parallel to the designated carpool line.
Some parents also line up on nearby neighborhood streets, blocking traffic or residents’ access to their homes.
Drivers sometimes cut each other off and make illegal U-turns in the middle of the street, Koopman said.
Vila-Parrish said no matter what the students come up with, one of the keys to a successful carpool experience will be to encourage parents to follow protocol.
“Having a process where people want to be compliant is important,” she said.
A good system will get parents in and out quickly, Vila-Parrish said, and be applicable to other schools that may face similar problems.
Wake has not designated money to implement any improvements the N.C. State students recommend. Koopman said the final solution might require help from the state Department of Transportation.
“I know the recommendations will be thoughtful and that’s what I look forward to,” he said.