Sunday, August 28, 2011

Transportation Redux

If you've been following Ann Arbor's transportation issues, you know that:
1. Back in the spring, the powers-that-be suggested cutting all high school transportation in order to save money.
(There was a Big Outcry.) 
2. The upshot was, that the Board of Education decided to establish "common" bus stops--for the most part at elementary schools and in some areas on the edge of the district.
3. (There was another Big Outcry.) This was from people who are just now realizing that their kids are going to have to get up super early and walk to a bus stop at a school, perhaps a mile or more away from their house (the district walk zone is a  1-1/2 mile radius). There may not be sidewalks; by late fall it will be dark; and if the bus pickup is a 6:45, they may need to wake up at 5:45 a.m.

You can read more here.

I'm all for common stops--but who thought up that they should definitely be at existing schools? In the case of concentrated subdivisions, it might make more sense to have them there. Is there any data from last year that could tell us about actual usage patterns?

Right now the district is saying:
a) We'll meet with parents again on Thursday, Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. in the cafeteria of Clague Middle School.
Great! The early meetings have been populated largely by people from Arrowwood and Foxfire, but I highly doubt those are the only parents concerned about this.

b) There's a video from the new superintendent on the Ann Arbor schools web site where she says that all decisions will be guided by safety concerns.

Great! This shouldn't be a popularity contest. I have to put in my two cents here: first of all, safety concerns are different in the morning and the afternoon. In other words, I would be concerned about my daughter walking a mile, by herself, in the dark, at 6:30 a.m. I wouldn't have those same concerns at 3 p.m. So potentially, stops could be added in the morning and not in the afternoon.

View Larger Map
Second, there are some other safety concerns if you're enforcing walking to school. For instance, this past year in March, there was a 1/4 mile of Maple Road--near the roundabouts, between where school property ends and houses start--where the sidewalk was unplowed and piled high with snow from the road--for over a month. Yes, you can see it on the map. Students faced a choice of slogging through two feet of snow or walking in the road. I couldn't figure out who owned this property... (the city? the road commission?) but I'm sure it's just one example. If we really expect kids to walk to school, we need to enforce sidewalk clearing.

c) Last, the district says, they won't make any decisions until after school starts.
What?! Why not?! If you are being guided by safety concerns, then those safety concerns exist on day one. 

Finally, it's worth noting that I don't believe that the district has yet received--or released--any information about whether their privatization switch to the WISD saved them money, and if it did, how much. I hope we'll get to see those numbers soon.

1 comment:

  1. You bring up good points. It seemed that the BOE was flying by the seat of their pants, and while generally I don't think it's a bad idea to have kids walk further, and there can be better analysis of bus stops, the board shouldn't be held hostage to people who just don't want to do it.