QUENTINSBURGH- Within the next two to three years, middle schoolers and high schoolers in Quentinsburgh and surrounding areas may have a new way of getting to and from school.
Quentinsburgh Metropolitan Public Schools, the school system servicing Quentinsburgh, Northcross, Gillepsie, Highfield, Mathersboro, Caroll Hill, Frankin Hill and other nearby areas, currently runs school buses daily to get elementary, junior high and high school students to school everyday. The signature greenish-yellow buses run through neighborhoods each morning and afternoon taking students between their homes and their schools.
However, this is also quite expensive. Quentinsburgh and the surrounding areas within the QMPS district are home to over a million students. The buses must be maintained and periodically replaced. Buses often wind through neighborhoods, using up a lot of fuel. Many of these school bus routes run through areas that are already home to transit provided by QUARTA, Quentinsburgh’s public transit system, and even with low prices on fuel and domestically produced buses, the program costs taxpayers over a billion Freedins each year.
However, this may change in the near future. QMPS has announced that they are strongly considering eliminating school buses for junior high and high school students and are currently looking into a partnership with QUARTA to provide the transportation.
Under this plan, elementary school bus routes would continue running. However, the routes for junior high school and high school would be eliminated, with the exceptions of neighborhoods not connected by public transit. Middle schoolers and high schoolers would receive free passes to the entire QUARTA transit system, including bus, subway, BRT and commuter rail, good for the entire school year and funded by money that would have been paying for redundant school bus service.
This plan would mean changes in QUARTA’s operation as well. Most of Quentinsburgh is centered along specific ‘corridors’ with the most density. Due to this, most QLine metro lines follow these corridors. However, most of these corridors also have bus routes, and oftentimes they will run nearly the exact same route. QUARTA would also make steps to reduce redundancy, altering some bus routes to better serve neighborhoods and schools along the route.
However, on some corridors, the bus route is so important and ridership is so high that QUARTA needs to run large accordian buses to meet demand. These buses are usually far too large to service the smaller neighborhoods where the students and the schools often are located. In these cases, QUARTA has proposed the creation of “Neighborhood Routes”, routes that vaguely run the same route as their crosstown counterparts, but specifically serve schools, neighborhoods with high populations of students, and other important but often to the sides destinations like hospitals, libraries and job centers along the route. These routes would run much less frequently than the normal routes, primarily at rush hour peak times, and would run with buses large enough to meet ridership but small enough to go through smaller neighborhoods.
These routes would simply be labeled with the letter “N” after the bus number. For example, route 20C would run crosstown, while route 20N would run the neighborhood route.
QUARTA will also make an effort to make more routes especially catering to the transportation needs of the student population in areas not currently serviced as much.
While this technically would short term result in a large increase in cost for QUARTA on creating some new routes and changing others, by reducing redundancy within the QUARTA system and alongside the huge cost reductions for QMPS, the overall cost to taxpayers would actually go down significantly. The area will also reap the benefits of having the buses be public transit now, so other riders who are not students can also get where they need to go, including teachers and school staff.
There is some opposition the the idea, largely concerned parents, wondering about the safety of their kids riding public transit every day. However, Quentinsburgh is considered one of the safest cities in the world, and QUARTA one of the safest transit systems. QMPS has stated that they will place a school representative on each neighborhood bus route to make sure the students are safe only if the need becomes evident. However, they do not expect that to be necessary.
“The safety of our students is always our first concern,” states superintendent Zachary Slaney. “However, we don’t expect to see any negative effects from this change. QUARTA already has safety precautions in place, and we will be working with them to make policies that work in the best interest of our students.”
Slaney points out that many students who live directly along a transit route already choose to ride transit alone to school, with no financial assistance, as well as the fact that that QUARTA has not seen a crime related incident, student related or otherwise, for over 25 years. He also points out others walk or bike to school and that none would be forced to ride transit.
Some supporters believe it is safe and that it will help teach students important life skills like time management and make them slightly more independent. Others also pointed out the fact that for the first time, if students miss the bus, they could actually catch the “next bus”, which would reduce the number of absences of students not being able to make it to school after missing the bus.
The change will be primarily seen in the denser areas already served by public transit, such as Quentinsburgh, Northcross, Mathersboro and Gillepsie. Areas like Caroll Hill and Franklin Hill will likely not see as many school bus routes eliminated.
QUARTA is continuing to work out the details with QMPS. The change could officially go into effect as early as the 2016-2017 school year. However, it depends on how fast QUARTA can figure out where the populations of students are and what neighborhoods, schools, and destinations need to be serviced.