Dear PoPville – Why so many Crossing Guards?

Dear PoPville,

As I was driving to work this morning, I couldn’t help but notice the abundance of crossing guards at 14 and W in NW around 8:30. I’m assuming it has something to do with the construction of the new building there, but is it really necessary to have THIS many crossing guards? I could only fit seven of them in my inconspicuous photo, but there were at least four more out of frame. They were taking turns standing in the crosswalks to hold up the stop signs for cars – which would be understandable if they weren’t just following the traffic light signals. It seemed kind of pointless. I guess I could justify having four of them out there, but 11 of them seems like a huge waste of tax dollars. Any idea what this is all about? (My apologize for a very dirty windshield!)

DDOT says they are training new crossing guards. Dang, I shoulda made this a caption contest!

24 Comment

  • OMG! Can we please get a crossing guard at the intersection of New Hampshire Avenue and Quincy Street. I almost get killed by crazy drivers speeding through that crosswalk every single day! How do we request a crossing guard?

    • You can try the Safe Routes to School program at DDOT, but there would have to be enough kids walking to school nearby (Raymond Elementary isn’t too far away, right?) I don’t have the number handy but just call DDOT’s main number and ask for that program.

  • Yes they were at 14th and Florida two weeks ago and I talked to them. They are training exercises.

    • I hope they train them to learn what the walk signals and those funny changing colored light mean. I’ve never seen an intersection with a light that wasn’t made worse by a crossing guard. 14th and Irving is a nightmare when they’re there, waving people through on red lights, waving pedestrians through during the don’t walk portion of the light and stopping turning drivers. Put them out to enforce crosswalks, but please keep them away from intersections with lights.

  • I recently learned that DC spends upwards of $8 million on crossing guards each year. Which seemed excessive. This maybe explains that?

    • I don’t think they do much good either. As both a pedestrian and a driver I find they make the experience of crossing an intersection very confusing. And as a pedestrian I’ve often been instructed to cross at times when I really didn’t feel it was safe.

      Still, it’s better than Fairfax County. When I first moved to the area I drove past a guy directing traffic who indicated I should proceed. Little did I know he was an undercover traffic cop who then hopped on his bike and wrote me a ticket for evading an officer. I still get nervous whenever I’m driving out there and someone’s directing traffic.

    • i’m not surprised. i’ve never seen them serve any real purpose. usually they’re causing a problem, taking a perfectly functioning light and making it a traffic jam. but i guess its like most of the DC city jobs — nothing more than welfare for the otherwise completely unemployable.

      • This – I’ve complained about them to DDoT before + they act incredulous, but they’re mostly a waste of money + impeding the flow of traffic.

        If anyone needs evidence, check out the corner of 12th and Rhode Island NE on a weekday morning – it runs perfectly well w/the existing light, but there’s a guard putting herself and the rest of us at risk by standing in the way of that.

        • I disagree w/the “welfare for the completely unemployable” bit, though – there are plenty of worthwhile, professional DC employees. And these folks may otherwise be fine.

          We just don’t need them as traffic directors.

          • perhaps you interact with fewer dc gov’t employees than i do. i’m not saying all of them. but I have not exactly been generally overwhelmed by the level of effort or competency.

  • Is there a more redundant job than a crossing guard?

    • Parents of elementary school students who walk to school might feel differently about this…… as an adult who has watched a few patient crossing guards manage traffic and young and/or impulsive kids at crosswalks, I, for one, am glad to have my tax dollars pay for their services.

  • wow, so much hate! there are two crossing guards on my commute, depending on if i metro or bike who are great! tony @ 11th and mass ave always keeps an eye out for cyclists and peds and lets them go when its safe even if the light isn’t green for them (one of those crazy intersections, where it should be safe because the light is red but the walking man doesn’t come on for a long time). he remembers everyones’ names! greg @ irving & 13th i’ve seen literally put his arm around young kids to get them across the street to the school. they both totally brighten my day AND they are sometimes out there in the crappiest weather, including pouring rain. i think they serve an important role helping our more vulnerable populations make safe connections. i always chat with them and say thanks.

    • I agree that the crossing guards are very friendly and nice (I certainly wouldn’t be if I had to do that job everyday), but I still don’t think they’re necessary in intersections with signals. If the light/walk signal isn’t operating optimally it’s a lot cheaper to modify the code than hire a crossing guard to replace it. I do think crossing guards are good to have near schools during open/closing times to make sure the kids get there safely, and they might be an interim solution for intersections that are eventually getting a light installed. But anywhere else is a waste.

      • i believe there are two types of intersection guards–school crossing guards who are posted near schools and on frequent routes to schools, and traffic control officers, who have the job of standing in the middle of intersections (frightening to me the way people drive around here) and making sure people both obey the laws and keep congestion down so people don’t do things like block the box. others may have more info, but that’s my understanding.

    • Tony at 11th and Mass is awesome!

  • i’m glad you asked this question / posted this question! i ran by this intersection this morning – and the crossing guard help up the ‘stop’ sign to ‘let’ me cross, even though i could clearly cross based on the traffic signals. i was confused and thought it a waste of tax payer dollars. so i’m glad to know what was up 🙂

    • Not only is it confusing and a waste of taxdollar money, but it actually causes traffic congestion. Lights are timed the way they are for a reason. This is a DC make-work employment program.

  • There were two crossing guards at Wisconsin and Water Streets around 11 this morning, too. Never seen that there before.

  • These guys/girls don’t help traffic… it actually looks quite comical.

  • They seem to train them here regularly. Always makes me smile on my commute.

    I am surprised at the people saying they don’t help traffic. My commute home is up 14th Street from downtown. There are very occasionally crossing guards at key intersections on 14th, often at times when there are big events going in D.C. There is less gridlock when they are there than times with comparable traffice when they are not.

  • Good crossing guards are awesome at keeping traffic flowing and pedestrians safe. Am hoping my kids school will get one soon. The crossing guards I see sitting and resting in bus stops/on walls shouting at kids to cross or not cross should stay home.

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