Saturday, August 4, 2012

Arlington Public School Buses - New Plans Will Result in More Cars Near Schools

Back to school night is always fun.  You get to see the school. You get to meet the new teachers.  You get to ask questions.  And without exception, the most common question and the question that has the most anxiety: the bus system.

Superintendent Murphy has worked hard to improve the APS bus system.  And it needs improvement.  Last year, at one point, our bus was running irregularly and early.  One morning it came so early it left all the students at the bus stops.  When we called, we were told our students had been late to the stop.  The problem with that excuse, the school principle drives by the bus stop every morning.... and knew better.  With the help of the school principle, this situation was rectified.  But other problems continued... with students getting lost in the system, parents unable to confirm where their students are, and students simply getting left behind.

With Dr. Murphy's new transportation system, you apparently are going to get a voucher if you live more than 1.5 miles away from the school.  If you live 1.4 miles from school, you dont get a voucher, you dont get on the bus - you are SOL.  What does Dr. Murphy advise?
Otherwise, we hope you will encourage your student to walk or bike to school - this is a healthier option and will otherwise help our environment by reducing the number of cars transporting students to and from school.
Bullshit (oops. Am I allowed to say that on the Internet?).  First, the most dangerous place for students to walk or bike is anywhere near a school at the start of school.  Parents flagrantly violate traffic laws and Arlington police do not enforce them.  I am a full time bicycle commuter.  I have been a bike commuter for almost 40 years.  I dont bike anywhere near a school during opening. (BTW if APS is serious about bikes as a means to get too and from schools, perhaps APS would be willing to install Capital Bikeshare stations at Arlington High Schools)

This also fails to take into account lousy weather.  And we know over the past few years the weather has gotten lousier.  Snow storms. Rain storms.  Cold.  Walking or biking to school isnt viable in those weather conditions.

This also fails to take into account whether there are safe routes to school.  Some routes to school that may be less than 1.5 miles from the school involve crossing major rush hour roads with high traffic volumes.  These are roads and intersections designated on Arlington Bike Maps as dangerous intersections.

So what does this add up to - its easy math - those students who live just inside the 1.5 mile perimeter - are going to get driven to school - which will increase the environment impact, increase the number of cars transporting students to and from school, increase traffic congestion near schools, and increase the risk of traffic accidents near school.

I applaud Dr. Murphy on working to reform the bus system.  But creating a voucher system, and refusing to transport students who live just less than 1.5 miles from school - is only going to make things worse.


  1. Regarding your third to last paragraph, APS will continue to grant exceptions for those living inside the perimeter who would have to cross heavily-traveled roadways.

    Overall, though, I ask what you would propose APS cut in order to fund more busing? Fewer teachers? Abandon plans for the new elementary school to relieve overcrowding? What do you think isn't contributing to the quality of education that can be cut? Although Arlington hasn't been hit nearly as hard as many areas, it's not been immune to the economy so I don't think "just raise taxes" isn't going to be a palatable answer.

  2. This is not a conversation about money nor is it a conversation about raising taxes.

    This is a conversation about the APS bus system which 90% of the time last year was fantastic, but then on occasion fell down and was miserable. It does not take more spending or more taxes to tell a bus driver that showing up early for a pick up, and leaving students at the bus stop - is not acceptable. That's an organizational / management issue - not a money issue.

    This is a discussion about telling students, who live 1.4 miles away from school - that they cant get on the bus at the bus stop that is .2 miles from their house. This is a discussion about forcing students to cross dangerous roads and walk in bad weather. This is a discussion about more cars dropping kids off at school. This is not about money - this is about the wrong solution to the problem - making things worse.