For many years, our local school district’s transportation staff coordinated bus parking for students to attend special daytime performances at the City of Eugene’s Hult Center for Performing Arts downtown. The events were geared towards students in kindergarten through grade three, and were performed by our local symphony, ballet, and dance resident companies. The partnership between the local school district and Hult Center staff provided a great learning opportunity and downtown visit for several thousand kids, teachers, and volunteers.
Attending these events, however, became difficult because of downtown development that transformed parking lots into buildings and increased customer demand for on-street spaces. It was becoming a significant challenge to find space to park 30 to 40 school buses in our downtown core.
The buses eventually found on-street options to park and unload the kids four to seven blocks away, adjacent to the county jail! Local sheriffs were hired to stop traffic at intersections so the thousands of students could cross a four-lane state highway downtown to reach the performing arts center. After a few years, the logistics and risks of transportation became too much and this school outing was cancelled.
Many years passed, and new staff at the school and city re-engaged the idea. We all wanted kids to take an educational field trip to our downtown to experience a performance by one of our resident companies. The Eugene Symphony wanted to present two 45-minute performances of “Peter and the Wolf” to K-3 kids. Where to park school buses remained the core issue, as drop-off/pick-up plans for several thousand students would not work. After exploring many of the old options, the most obvious solution was to close a street adjacent to the performing art center and park 24 buses carrying close to 2,000 students for the short performance.
The city parking program facilitated the conversation to get to a yes on the street closure. Transportation staff from the local school district provided a bus parking plan, operation policies, and agreed to coordinate directions and parking information for all school districts. The Eugene Symphony provided marketing and volunteers to assist with bus loading and unloading. Hult Center staff provided staff to support the event. The City’s Traffic Engineer provided an approved traffic control plan and signage. Additional checks-ins were made with the local police and fire departments, as well as the transit agency. Finally, a few days before the event, we all got to a “yes” and the event was on.
End result? More than 3,600 kids saw the Eugene Symphony’s performance of “Peter and the Wolf,” representing more than 60 elementary schools from across the county!
Later, a co-worker shared with me that her son’s memory of attending this event many years ago was that of hearing an oboe for the very first time. These are the memories that parking can help create!