Friday, October 1, 2010

LETTER: Give parents incentives to bus their kids rather than drive

As a regular Metro bus commuter, I can't help but notice the daily commuters entering Redmond Junior High School. There is another traffic "hot spot" just around the corner at Horace Mann Elementary... I am a regular participant of Redmond R-Trip.  R-Trip gives incentives for using alternate forms of commuting.
Thinking "out side the box", what if a similar program could be launched for rewarding parents to put their kids on the school bus?
Here is how it could work. Using Redmond R-Trip as a model, parents would record the daily use of the school bus for their child. After completing 60 round trips, the parent would be rewarded. In my case, I received a $50.00 gift card for
It is ironic that we expect our schools to teach something about "going green." Then, we parents drive our kids over to the school house and completely cancel out any kind of "green" commuting by dismissing the school bus.
Education Hill neighbor


Anonymous said...

On the R-Trip website: "R-TRIP is funded primarily through the City of Redmond's Business Tax/Transportation Improvements and grant funding from King County. The Washington State Department of Transportation also has contributed funding toward employer incentive demonstration programs."
So basically I paid for your gift card. I hope you bought something nice from Amazon.

Susan Wilkins said...

Under current state guidelines, students who live less than 1 radius mile from the school are not eligible for school bus transportation so for most students who are being driven there isn’t a school bus that they could ride if they wanted to.

Students who live within the 1-mile radius often end up walking far more than one mile to get to school. This can take 30-40 minutes. Students at Redmond Junior High have to leave home between 7:00 and 7:15 AM in order to arrive before the morning bell. RJH students get about 2 cubic feet of locker space so wet backpacks and jackets stay wet all day. Parents want their kids to stay warm and dry and get extra sleep in the morning so they drive them. (Almost 400 cars go through the two RJH parking lots every morning.)

Starting in the 2011-2012 school year, RCW 28A.160.160 recognizes that students living within the 1-mile radius can end up walking more than a mile and defines a new “WALK AREA” that measures the actual walking distance to school following existing roads and pathways up to one mile. Under this new definition, students who live outside the Walk Area will be eligible for school bus transportation. Next year, many more students will be eligible for school bus transportation to school so vehicle traffic at all the schools in the district should be reduced as more kids are on buses.

At Horace Mann Elementary, all students live within the 1-mile radius from school. However, students living east of the NE 104th Street & 179th Avenue NE intersection are eligible for bus transportation because of hazardous conditions such as excessive speeding and lack of crosswalks along NE 104th Street. Every morning and afternoon, a full-size school bus transports AYP students to and from Einstein Elementary. That bus is nearly empty and could transport eligible Horace Mann students who live along NE 104th Street and who are currently being driven to and from school in their parents’ vehicles. The district has given a variety of excuses for not using the existing bus to transport eligible students – none of them good – and we as taxpayers and residents should be outraged at the waste of bus resources and the unnecessary traffic that this creates in our neighborhood. The school district should be ashamed. The bus should start transporting students immediately!


FACEBOOK FRIEND #1: As a parent of kids at both schools, let me say I'd LOVE it if busing were an option! Mann is a "walking school" (no buses) but the uphill climb from my neighborhood is prohibitive, especially for young kids. It takes about 40 minutes for... us to walk, and once the rainy season starts my kids would need a change of clothes upon arrival. I've tried creating carpools, but there's a disheartening lack of interest. We are lucky enough to get a bus to RJH, but our friends just a few blocks up NE 104th are not.

I'm sure everyone has their reasons for why driving the kids to school is easier or better than any alternative, but the first reason is that the easiest alternative - a school bus - simply isn't an option for a lot of students.

FACEBOOK FRIEND #2: Stacy Bryan Harper The majority of those that are driving their kids to school are those that live within the 1 mile (as the crow flies) limit of the buses. One mile is great on the map, but when you actually have to walk it, it can be a serendipitous route ...that can take 20-30 minutes. Not a good way to start the school day. If Metro had their route arriving just a little bit later at the Jr High than it does now, I would just have my daughter take that instead of us driving her (she walks on sunny days, but if it is raining she is soaked by the time she gets to school if we don't drive her).

FACEBOOK FRIEND #3: Cheryl Stark Volta I too would LOVE to have the option for my kids to ride the bus, but none are provided for Horace Mann students living within the school boundary since it's a "walking school". The walk from our house isn't too long (15-20 minutes), but it... does involve walking through the woods, which I don't allow my children to do without an adult. I walk them to and from school when the weather permits. This will be an issue for my kids through High School since LWSD doesn't provide any bus service for our neighborhood.

Kathryn Reith, Communications, LWSD said...

Yes, unfortunately, many parents do drive their students who live within the one mile radius. Remember that transportation funding was one of the lowest priority areas in the last budget input process and we cut back on bus stops to reduce our spending on transportation, one of the ways we managed to keep class sizes the same and not have to lay off teachers. In this budget environment, there is always a tradeoff.

Kathryn M. Reith, APR
Communications Director
Lake Washington School District
425-936-1342 (note new number!)
425-214-6115 (cell)

Susan Wilkins said...

Let’s focus on Horace Mann students who live east of 179th Avenue NE (Abbey Road intersection) along NE 104th Street. These students are eligible for school bus transportation – based on the school district’s definition of hazard-qualified – because there are no crosswalks or crossing guards and because so many cars routinely exceed the speed limit, even though they live closer than 1 mile to Horace Mann. Currently, the district is not providing bus service to those students so they are being driven to school by their parents.

It’s not a lack of funding that’s keeping the district from providing bus service. There is already a district school bus that runs between Einstein Elementary and Horace Mann every morning and afternoon that could easily transport the Mann students to and from school while transporting the Einstein students. Only 12 Einstein students are assigned to the bus, leaving room for 70-80 Horace Mann students who live along NE 104th Street. The bus is already running, the bus driver gets paid $20.93 per hour whether his bus is full or empty. There would be a slight added fuel cost from transporting the weight of an additional 70+ students who live along NE 104th Street. If there is a good reason why this bus is not transporting Horace Mann students, please let us know.

BTW: the bus I’m referring to is LWSD Bus #162. Watch for it every morning and afternoon as it arrives at and leaves Horace Mann. Notice that almost all the seats on this bus are empty.