Martini: Increased School Buses in Amherst

Anna Martini: Concerned about increased school buses in Amherst
Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette, Wed, March 22, 2017

The proposed school building plan in Amherst requires a larger fleet of buses to help mitigate long ride times. Right now, only six or seven buses go to each school from their catchment area.

The new plan proposes 23, at an additional cost of $220,000 per year. These buses will be significantly underfilled (three of the 72-seat buses will have 22 or fewer students). The new buses also add more than 120 miles traveled per day— that’s almost 22,000 more miles per school year— an increase of more than one-third over the current three-school model. Unsurprisingly, transportation is one of the reasons this plan is only minimally LEED Silver.

The other issue with moving 23 buses back and forth between two sites is the obvious increase in time kids will spend on buses. For example, kindergartners and first-graders who would have attended Wildwood would experience an 11- to 15-minute longer ride due to the initial stop and drop at Wildwood for the older kids, then the additional travel through downtown to Crocker Farm. This may prompt some parents to drive their 5- or 6-year old to Crocker, further worsening the overall traffic situation.

Class start time would also be seriously impacted. Right now the seven buses that arrive at Wildwood manage the stop and drop in an amazing seven minutes. Between the arrival of the first of the 23 buses and the arrival of the last bus coming from the other school, there will be at least 20 to 25 minutes before each teacher has their entire class accounted for.

Estimates of the two-school, 23-bus system are based on a computer model. When I asked the company whose program is used to comment on how accurate it is, they said it should be “within 10 minutes” but before adoption they would “recommend having the buses run the routes at the appropriate time of day” to get actual driver-derived data.

It’s been nearly 1½ years since the former superintendent recommended this plan, and I don’t believe this test run has been done yet.

Anna Martini


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