Metro Magazine

AUG 2014

Magazine serving the bus and rail transit & motorcoach operations since 1904

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Page 13 of 93

Cutbacks hurt students Sometimes it felt like a long, arduous journey to get to my stop. Of course, it doesn't top our parent's stories about trudging through three feet of snow to get to school, but when you're a kid, everything seems monumental. I also remember being jealous of kids whose parents drove them to school, but looking back, I see how lucky I was. These days, riding a traditional yellow bus to school is seen as a privilege in some schools districts across the U.S., who have had to cut back on the ser- vice due to limited funding. Earlier this year, the Boston Public Schools (BPS) system announced it planned to eliminate bus service for its seventh and eighth grade students this fall, and instead, inte- grate students onto the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), accord- ing to a Boston Globe report. In a June 2014 Boston Globe OpEd piece, titled "Sending school kids on public tran- sit is the wrong choice," authors Michael A. Curry, president of the Boston NAACP, and Rahsaan D. Hall, deputy director of the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Eco- nomic Justice, cite numerous problems with the plan, the most "significant" being one of "educational oppportunity." The plan would "force some parents to choose between the school to which they want to send their child and their child's safety." The piece discusses how the plan would make children in high-poverty neighbor- hoods travel farther to attend high-performing schools, often through areas with compar- atively higher crime rates. "Parents rightly fear their children would risk increased exposure to bullying, harass- ment and violence on public transportation," Curry and Hall explained. Public transit shouldn't play 'chaperone' In July, BPS school officials announced that it would slow the process of integrat- ing students, by delaying the transition of seventh graders to the following year. Despite the slower timetable, Beverly A. Scott, GM of the MBTA, says accommodating an increase of younger riders is concerning. "We are a public transportation operator; we are not a yellow school bus transporta- tion service," Scott told the Boston Globe, adding that "extra buses would not be an op- tion, and it would be challenging to find extra transit police to help with security." Scott added, "at the end of the day, we will absolutely support them in every way we can." I'll be honest, I wouldn't be comfortable with the idea of my middle-school-aged son or daughter having to take public transit. I also don't believe public transit systems, who have limited resources as it is, should have to worry about playing "chaperone" for young- er students. I expect this will be a growing trend, which will require some changes on the parts of both the school districts and the public transit agencies. If your transit agency is faced with this issue, we'd like to hear how you are handling it. As I write this, most children will have said goodbye to summer and started school again. Looking back at my grade school years, I remember walking several blocks to a pedestrian bridge that crossed part of the Los Angeles "river," or "flood control channel" as we called it, to get to my bus stop. The bridge was en- closed by chain link fencing on the top and sides, but it still made me anxious every time I had to cross it. Especially, when the water level swelled from rushing rainwater from the mountains. 12 < m ETRO m AGAZINE AUGUST 2014 point of departure Parents shouldn't have to worry about kids getting to school, and neither should public transit Janna Starcic, Executive Editor janna.starcic@ "Parents rightly fear their children would risk increased exposure to bullying, harassment and violence on public transportation."

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