The phrase,'Unsound Transit', was coined by the Wall Street Journal to describe Seattle where,"Light Rail Madness eats billions that could otherwise be devoted to truly efficient transportation technologies." The Puget Sound's traffic congestion is a growing cancer on the region's prosperity. This website, captures news and expert opinion about ways to address the crisis. This is not a blog, but a knowledge base, which collects the best articles and presents them in a searchable format. My goal is to arm residents with knowledge so they can champion fact-based, rather than emotional, solutions.


Saturday, March 8, 2008

Seattle Schools to outsource transportation to Metro?

Seattle School District may put more students on Metro buses
By Alex Fryer

Seattle Times staff reporter

High-school students from Roosevelt, Chief Sealth and Rainier Beach may join kids from Seattle's three other high schools on Metro Transit next school year, according to a transportation plan considered by the Seattle School Board on Wednesday.

Under the proposal, expected to be approved later this month by the board, three additional high schools — Garfield, Ingraham and West Seattle — would convert to Metro service in 2008-09, followed by Cleveland in 2009-10.

To further reduce costs, the Seattle School District has discussed the possibility of ending yellow-bus service to middle schools. And as high schools change bus service, the city's elementary schools will likely change their start times.

While the district says Metro service has been popular with high-school students, including those from Ballard and Franklin who began riding Metro this year, there are additional safety concerns about moving sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to public transit.

"We need to get high schools done," Superintendent Raj Manhas said. "We should explore the possibility of middle schools. Sixth-graders might be a little small, but this is worth exploring."

Sherry Carr, president of the Seattle Council PTSA, agreed.

"We're not in a fiscal situation to ignore legitimate possibilities. As long as it [moving middle-schoolers to Metro] can be done safely, I think it should be looked at," Carr said.

As more high schools transition to Metro, the city's elementary schools will begin staggered bell times to allow yellow buses to serve different neighborhoods in the same day.

Until this school year, Nathan Hale High School was the district's only traditional high school without yellow-bus service. Currently, the district spends about $27 million on transportation. Students without yellow-bus service are given free Metro passes.

The School Board last year voted to scale back yellow-bus service to high schools as a way to save money. The board agreed to move Ballard and Franklin High to Metro last fall and consider additional schools on a phased-in basis. About 500 students from Ballard and 700 from Franklin currently take Metro.

Victor Obeso, manager of service development at Metro, said the agency received 22 complaints from commuters about over-crowded buses related to Franklin and Ballard. With high gas prices, Metro ridership is up about 4.4 percent from 2005-06, and that's made for standing room only on some routes.

"Some of the commuters — it's not an environment that they would choose," Obeso said.

Metro switched buses from other routes to accommodate the additional students this school year, but the agency is concerned that its buses may not have enough seats for students from three more schools. As a result, the district is maintaining some yellow-bus routes to Roosevelt, as well as 10 routes to Chief Sealth and two to Rainier Beach that carry middle-schoolers.

The district estimates that it would save $88,440 annually if Roosevelt, Chief Sealth and Rainier Beach move to Metro.

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