Editor-in-Chief and A & E Editor
Wake County’s removal of seventy school buses from service and their alteration of the transportation strategy for this school year has caused a bit of unrest. While in the 2013-2014 school year, the county relied on 925 buses; Wake now uses 835 buses to transport eighty thousand students every day to school.
Over the last two years, Wake has taken ten percent of buses off the road. While fewer buses has stopped the severe shortage of bus drivers, and the money saved on transportation may go towards the classroom, there are a few inconveniences including longer walks to bus stops, longer rides on the bus, and crowding.
But these are not the only complaints school officials have been receiving from families. Last year a new part of bus routing was implemented where families are required to register for bus service one month before classes begin to secure a seat for their child. Also, before a request could be made for a new bus stop for a reason aside from safety, parents had to wait until the twentieth day of school. These feelings of discontent have continued into the new school year as well. But administrators claim the new system is working.
The transportation department has been reorganized because concern was expressed over fewer buses in the 2012-2013 school year. This new system includes hiring a specially trained eight person team to develop bus routes instead of operation managers in different transportation districts. In the previous situation, a bus stop was placed within one tenth of a mile of another although North Carolina law states bus stops must be at least two tenths of a mile apart.
Administrators claim the new system is more effective. Since the second week of school, ninety-seven percent of afternoon runs and ninety-nine percent of morning runs have been on time. Staff have eliminated some routes and stops while changing others. “The level of complaints from students and parents has been less this year than in previous years,” says James Nelson, Apex High School’s assistant principal. Board members believe this bus service to be better than it has been in recent years.
For Apex High School, not much has changed. While this new system has caused an inconvenience for some, the number of students on a bus is still the same. “For us, it’s not a whole lot different,” says Nelson. “We have the same number of routes but three fewer buses. They have to double back so kids have to wait.” But Apex High has still received complaints. “Some kids complained about a longer walk to their bus stops,” says Nelson. “That’s been the only thing we’ve noticed here.”
But the fewer bus stops and bus runs have impacted families of Wake County. Data from last year showed average ride time and distance to the bus stop increased. While the percent of students picked up in front of their home decreased. Ridership has increased by 1,500 students, and the bus service is still able to transport them with fewer buses because of route changes.
Wake County spends more than $50 million per year on transportation. Using fewer buses will save Wake County approximately $500,000 on transportation this year; the exact numbers will be known once the state budget is adopted. “It may have a big effect on other schools,” says Nelson, “but [for Apex High School,] there’s not much difference.”