SLPS Transportation Plan: No More MetroBus Passes, More Yellow Buses
This article buried deep inside yesterday's South City Journal about the plans for the start of the new school year in St. Louis Public Schools was quite illuminating.
Here's the second half of that story, which references newly promoted interim assistant superintendent for operations Deanna Anderson:
Deanna Anderson, interim assistant superintendent for operations, said the district will stop using Metro passes for high school students. The district will instead transport all eligible students with school buses. It contracts with Laidlaw Education Services.
Anderson said this would give students a designated time and place to be picked up and dropped off, save costs, and enable the district to be partially reimbursed by the state for the transportation cost. She said it costs $15 per student per week for a Metro pass, while it costs an average of $11 per month to transport a pupil on a school bus.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary education reimburses district between 40 percent and 50 percent for its cost to transport students on school buses. It does not reimburse the district for Metro passes.
The district has also changed its stipulation for who is eligible to ride the bus to school. Last year, students were required to live more than two miles from school to receive transportation. This year, they must only live a mile from school.
Anderson said staff hopes to mail bus schedules the week of Aug. 14.
So, it actually costs more than four times as much to give out bus passes purchased from Metro to students, than it does to put them on yellow buses? That's crazy!
Wow. Maybe that strange school bus routing software really does work!
I wonder, though, why DESE does not reimburse any of the cost of Metro bus passes?
I think the change from two-mile to one-mile minimum distance for transportation was a result of the outcry last school year when SLPS stopped giving out Metro passes to students who live within two miles of school.
This is probably a good decision both for discipline and fiscal reasons. It allows SLPS to have a little more control over student behavior in transit, since legally while on a school bus discipline is the district's responsibility so students are supposed to follow district rules.
That's not true on public transportation. I suspect the Police Department would be quite happy about this too, since they will have fewer calls/arrests for high school kids getting into fights on MetroBuses.
It also makes life a little easier for transit planners and passengers, as there are fewer "school trips" to be figured into routes like the #70 Grand, #30 Soulard, #04 Natural Bridge, etc. There still may need to be a few to accommodate students who live within one-mile of each high school, because that's a pretty long walk. But I guess they'll have to pay their own way now.
As of August 28th, bus fares will increase to $1.75 each way; or $2.00 total for the two-hour pass that includes unlimited transfers.
This might cut into Metro's revenues somewhat, although I'm not sure how much. If they eliminate school trips, though, it probably balances out.
Of course, back in my day, Metro High School had very unfair transportation policies:
County kids (like me), because of deseg, had free yellow buses and/or taxicabs. City kids had to pay $1 for a 10-ride student ticket booklet that normally cost $5 from Bi-State. So SLPS subsidized 80% of the cost. Occasionally, if the secretary was feeling particularly charitable and you didn't have any money, she might give you the ticket booklet for free.
Sometimes city kids had sports/activity buses after practices and games, but those didn't necessarily take them all the way home - just to the nearest elementary school. And I often did ride Bi-State buses during high school -- even though it took about an hour-and-a-half to get home that way.
Honestly, there's even some places in the city where it would take that long, with transfers and wait times included. On the other hand, some county kids who live in Maplewood-Richmond Heights(as a couple dozen did) could have gotten home pretty easily on Bi-State. But they had free yellow buses.
All a consequence of an arbitrary boundary line laid down in 1876... and similarly arbitrary decisions by Federal judges from 1972 until 1999.