The University Police Department began stationing crossing guards around Grounds Feb. 11. Right now, crossing guards are positioned along McCormick Road by the University Chapel, Monroe Hall and the Engineering School on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The new initiative will cost the University $14,140 per month.
The decision comes after months of planning on behalf of the UPD to address pedestrian safety on Grounds. According to University Police Chief Tim Longo, the idea originated during a Fall 2019 discussion with University staff about upcoming construction work on McCormick Road.
Longo, who joined UPD as interim police chief in October and was recently named permanent police chief and vice president of safety and security, said he immediately noticed the high amounts of pedestrian traffic throughout Grounds when he arrived at the University.
“During the course of those discussions, we talked a lot about pedestrian safety and also vehicular traffic that will be moving across that roadway during the course of that construction,” Longo said. “One of the concerns that was raised, and frankly, it was a concern that was consistent with my own observations, [was] the large amount of pedestrian activity around McCormick Road, particularly during class changes.”
Operations at the McCormick Road gates, located near the Engineering School and Monroe Hall, were suspended in 2019. According to University spokesperson Wes Hester, the gates will be replaced as part of the McCormick Road improvement project that is currently underway.
Prior to the crossing guards’ arrival, the University’s only methods of traffic control were crosswalks.
To address this issue, Longo and UPD Lieutenant Matthew McBee reached out to RMC Events — the security company that provides the Ambassadors program, which patrols on and off-Grounds locations — about the possibility of training RMC personnel to do traffic control.
The decision to implement the crossing guards program comes amid rumors of a collision between a pedestrian and UTS bus. However, Longo affirmed that the program has been in the works since late October and was not brought about by any one incident.
“There's no incident whatsoever that triggered this,” Longo said. “What triggered this is exactly what I said — it was an observation that, to me, is frankly pretty clear to anybody who's paying attention.”
So far, 11 RMC employees have been trained as crossing guards, and McBee said RMC will continue to train ambassadors to serve as crossing guards around Grounds. Soon, A-frame pedestrian crossing signs will be placed near the monitored crosswalks.
Although McBee said he has already noticed improvements in traffic patterns around Grounds, some students say that they find the crossing guards fail to address the root of pedestrian safety on Grounds. Third-year Nursing student Jae Guerrant said that he sees the initiative as reactionary.
“In my mind, this is similar to not implementing a helmet policy for e-scooters,” Guerrant said. “The University should take more proactive steps than reactive steps to prioritize student safety.”
Second-year College student Kunal Chauhan echoed this sentiment, saying that the crossing guards don’t fully tackle issues of pedestrian safety.
“If the goal is to maintain students safety while walking to classes, the focus should be on drivers and students,” Chauhan said. “Drivers should be hyper vigilant when operating a vehicle on Grounds. Students should be encouraged to be aware of their surroundings especially when crossing streets.”
Both McBee and Longo noted that the program is in its infancy, but they’ve already seen a significant difference for both pedestrians and drivers.
“I was able to get through the area a lot faster without having to try to maneuver around people,” McBee said. “Even though it's in its infancy, it seems like it's really working.”