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Posted on Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 2:59 p.m.

Ann Arbor schools to put more students on public buses this fall

By Amy Biolchini

More students will be stepping on to public buses this fall as Ann Arbor high schools change more of their bus routes.

Three bus routes to Ann Arbor high schools will no longer be serviced by a yellow bus from the Washtenaw Intermediate School District this year.


Pioneer High School students board an Ann Arbor Transportation Authority bus on the first day of school in September 2012. file photo

Students eligible for bus service along those routes will get passes to use Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority—also known as TheRide— buses for the entire school year.

It’s a move that Ann Arbor Public Schools initiated last school year, when it switched three high school bus routes over to TheRide bus routes as a trial run. Those three routes will continue to use TheRide buses this year, in addition to the three new routes that will be changing over.

School district and TheRide officials have deemed the first year of the program a success. About 300 to 400 students used the passes last year, said Don Kline, marketing coordinator for AAATA.

“There were some initial concern from parents that public transit isn’t as safe or reliable,” Kline said. “All the high school students arrived safely.”

Both parties have been in discussions since December to see how to expand the program to more routes.

With the three additional routes that will be switched this year, the district has maximized its capability to transfer high school bus routes to TheRide buses.

Transportation costs account for about three percent of the district’s general fund budget. Before contracting with the WISD for all bus service, transportation costs accounted for four percent of the district’s general fund.

Less than 27 percent of high school students eligible for bus transportation actually take the bus to school—a total of 1,270 students, said AAPS district spokeswoman Liz Margolis.

About 837 students are eligible for an Exceptional Pass on AAATA this year, Kline said.

The district is responsible for paying for each time a high school student uses his or her Exceptional Pass on a bus. The AAATA is charging the district half of the normal rate for each ride.

The passes will be assigned to eligible students when they register for classes. Each one will have a number associated with the individual student.

The passes are programmed to work only during the school year on weekdays. Though there’s no restriction on the number of rides that can be taken in a day, the passes are only intended to be used to and from school, Kline said.

Margolis said the district tracked the usage of the passes last year and there was little to no abuse of the passes outside of school transportation purposes.

One bus route in the Ann Arbor schools services all three levels of schools: High school, middle school and elementary school.

With the switch of the high school route to The Ride, drivers will only have to complete their routes for the middle and elementary schools. The change will mean fewer work hours for the WISD bus drivers, Margolis said.

“We’re seeing cost savings in what we pay the WISD for bus service,” Margolis said.

The district pays $12,500 for each of its bus routes that serve elementary, middle and high school. Last year, AAPS paid on average about $9,000 to AAATA for each of the three bus routes.

Skyline High School

There are 15 bus routes that bring students to Sklyline High School, one of which will be through The Ride in the 2013-14 school year.

One AAPS bus route was replaced with an AAATA route last year and will continue to be serviced by TheRide: Bus 48 was replaced with AAATA route 18 on Miller Road.

Pioneer High School

There are eight bus routes that bring students to Pioneer High School, three of which will be through TheRide in the 2013-14 school year.

Last year, Pioneer had one of its AAPS bus routes replaced by The Ride Route 16, which services Ann Arbor-Saline Road. That route will continue to be serviced by The Ride.

This year, AAPS Bus 92 will be replaced by The Ride routes 7 and 14, which serves Geddes Road and East Stadium Boulevard.

Huron High School

There are 14 bus routes that bring students to Huron High School, two of which will be through TheRide in the 2013-14 school year.

Last year, AAPS route 84 was replaced by AAATA route 22, the north connector, which picks up students who live in the Earhart, Glazier Way, Green, Baxter and Huron areas. That route will continue to be serviced by TheRide.

This year, AAPS routes 36 and 45 will be replaced by AAATA route 22, the North Connector/Huron Parkway. The routes serve students living near Carpenter and Central, Clark Road, Golfside Road and Glencoe Hills.

Exceptional Passes will also be offered to any eligible Community High School students.

During its budget deliberation process this spring, the AAPS Board of Education considered cutting its funding for high school transportation which could have saved the district about $466,000.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Mon, Aug 19, 2013 : 2:18 p.m.

We caved on 7th hour which isn't even part of the instructional day, yet we have eliminated ways for students to get to school. Interesting isn't it?

A Voice of Reason

Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 1:50 a.m.

School districts across the country are charging for bus service from $300-$475 per student. They are also charging for students to be in band and orchestra as well as have to rent expensive instruments vs. the school providing them. This is our future. This year, we are paying almost $1400 for our child to attend attend a AAPS high school which includes 3 sports, band, theater, etc. Even though some of this is optional, private schools do not charge extra for these opportunities. I am not sure how parents who are low income handle it...there are scholarships for low income, but not for lower middle income people. All the AAPS money goes into salaries and benefits and they keep making parents, who are already paying hefty taxes, pay more.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 3 a.m.

I am not sure what school yours goes to but Pioneer does not charge these fees. I know, mine is in choir. Unless you are talking about the week to Interlochen. Now that is $400 a pop. The varsity sports we opt out on because most are stuff ours is already doing and we pay coaches for that one.


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 6:47 p.m.

Why are there so many more buses servicing Skyline and Huron, relative to Pioneer?


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 2:57 a.m.

It is along the UM corridor. Skyline services the UM students who live near Nixon and Plymouth Road areas. Also there is a huge sub division going in there in the next year or so. I have seen that AATA route from Pioneer. If you miss the half going out? You will be waiting another half hour or so before you get your ride. Huron and Skyline have better time tables then Pioneer does.


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 3:25 p.m.

Forcing students to walk along Waters Road, where cars drive 55mph, to catch the AATA at Target is a bad idea. The sidewalk on the south side is partially blocked by tree branches, making it hard to stay out of the road. Between the morning sun shining in the drivers' eyes in the Fall and the pitch black of Winter, it's just not safe.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 2:54 a.m.

There is a Pioneer High School student that does walk Scio Church Road every day around 4 or so. This is a huge concern to his safety. That road is not one I would walk down myself. This includes Waters Road.

Roger Kuhlman

Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 2:42 p.m.

Why are high school students charged half the normal bus fare? That does not seem right. As all of us should remember the normal bus fare only covers about 25% of AATA's operating expenses. Special interests should not have their transportation costs subsized in such a massive way.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 2:52 a.m.

You will spend $300 for the entire school year. Broken down? $29 a month for student discounted ride. The extra 10 is for extra expense getting somewhere else. So glad we are done with the buses and I have less to worry about.


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 1:52 p.m.

"Less than 27 percent of high school students eligible for bus transportation actually take the bus to school—a total of 1,270 students, said AAPS district spokeswoman Liz Margolis." I knew I would see a statistic such as this highlighted the AAPS administration. Last school year they gutted the high school bus program so that students who wanted to ride the bus had ridiculous pick up times. my student's time was something like 6:00 am. our family decided that was unreasonable so we stopped using the bus system. no wonder the statistics look so bad.


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 2:17 p.m.

Absolutely agree.


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 3:31 a.m.

I am going to concern the parents with this one but I would be extremely concerned by any child riding the ride. Why? Because mine was attacked on the ride and thru an attorney? Because they are state paid employees? We cannot sue them nor the driver. So ours carries mace and so should yours. We just got ours a car for the new year because I am terrified of mine on the bus again. So parents? Get mace and make sure your children are safe. Take it from me. We are making sure this nut stays in jail.


Sun, Aug 18, 2013 : 2:50 a.m.

No this was not reported to the news but we are given bi monthly updates to this nut who is currently serving time and from what we hear now? Going thru rehab. I could care less about the neg votes, but I am warning parents about this. Carry mace. When this nut does have a court date with the judge? Ours hesitates when it is time to go to court. This nut has done it three times before. Fingers crossed we get our message across to the judge. Keep this nut in jail.


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 1:54 p.m.

If the person is in jail, was there a news report about this? Hopefully it is an isolated event, but it's important for parents to be aware---not sure why you were down voted?


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 2:29 a.m.

Why did they stop the AATA busing when it was being used before? In the early '90s the only option I had at Huron was AATA when school let out. Half of the school were on school busses and half on AATA. I did not have a problem with it and neither did my parents.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 11:36 p.m.

Actually, this is the second step. The first step was appointing Susan Baskett to the AATA board, while she continues to serve on the BOE. Readers may recall that Ms. Baskett advocates for elimination of AAPS bus services. Now she can vote to have the AAATA pick up the tab. This conflict of interest brought to you by City Council, operating without an ethics policy since 1851.


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 3:34 a.m.

This is only the first of five stages the BOE is implementing to get rid of school busing. Didn't you read that they are now redistricting the elementary schools? Well, golly gee, can't wait to see no yellow bus on any road within ten years. Parents? The BOE likes its money like Scrooge likes wallowing in it. Can't wait to see what else the BOE has up its sleeve.


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 12:06 a.m.

I agree, this is a big conflict of interest and thought so from the get go.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 11:26 p.m.

Get ready, Ann Arbor taxpayers. This is the first step in a plan to shift the cost of school busing from the AAPS budget to the AAATA budget, which will need to be supplemented by a new millage to cover the costs of the new loads on the system. Of course, this millage will be held in a spring election, following the lead of the BOE's Tech Bond millage.


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 3:41 a.m.

From the 2014 AAATA Final Workplan, line item 3.03 AAPS High Priority: 1. Continue to work with AAPS to optimize existing resources (communication, transportation). 2. Communicate how Urban Core can be part of the solution for AAPS's students' transportation needs 3. Prepare for anticipated end of HS bus transportation services


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 3:34 a.m.

Someone else who is seeing the writing on the wall. Good eye DJ, good eye.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 9:56 p.m.

People are concerned that the kids have to leave 45 minutes before the school bell? That would be a dream! Kids around here are cutting it close by leaving 1 and 1//4 hours before the school bell. We think it is great to have bus service at all. If AAATA were to cut service, kids around here would have to walk up to 3 miles, THEN take city buses, with an estimated commuting time of up to 2 hours, each way.

Joan Doughty

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 9:13 p.m.

Overall, a good development, particularly considering the alternative of eliminating high school transportation. We have noticed however, that some students were more likely to skip first hour. When they relied on the school bus, there was just one. Now that they take AAATA to school, it seems some students decided to sleep in a little longer, and take a later bus. Not a reason not to proceed - but I do hope AAPS administrators monitor first hour attendance of those with AAATA bus passes with this in mind.


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 3:36 a.m.

Which is what we are doing this year. No first hour, drive in day light and go home in day light. Good eye catch on that one.


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 2:26 a.m.

Or opt out of 1st hour and take 7th hour.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 9:13 p.m.

You couldn't be bothered to find a single student or parent to talk to who was affected by this last year?!? We can say absolutely from experience that switching our Skyline children to the AATA routes along Miller Road has NOT been as safe or reliable as the school buses from Forsythe previously were! 1. Originally AATA committed to 2 Forsythe pick-ups, within one month they dropped the later one, forcing kids who are a 5-6 minute drive away to leave 45 minutes before the school bell. 2. When the Ride is delayed, the "real-time" data apps (web and mobile) are more often wrong. If a parent or student then calls the designated phone number for route information, they are told that "that office doesn't open until 8 AM". School starts at 7:30 AM. 3. When school is closed UNEXPECTEDLY , like Skyline was repeatedly due to power outages last year, there is NO WAY for students to get home without waiting for several buses to pass. Students are told to leave the building, no matter the weather, sometimes without knowing how or when they will be able to get a AATA bus. 4. When an AATA bus "fills up" with highschoolers, there are no additional buses sent.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 10:38 p.m.

Many of the kids in the district ride a bus quite a while to get to school. If you are fortunate to live a 5-6 minute drive from Skyline, your kids could always walk. Or you could drive them. Or arrange for a carpool. You could have a backup plan with other neighborhood parents to carpool home if school closes unexpectedly. I've seen many kids walking home down Miller. It's a bummer that your kids might have to get up early to have the option of taking a bus, but it's an option. If AAPS school busses are discontinued at some point, you at least will still have the option to use the AATA. I've also noticed kids waiting in the Skyline building on numerous occasions after school, waiting for rides. They weren't kicked out. Planning for the possibilities ahead of time works pretty well.


Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 7:46 p.m.

I can't believe we're privatizing............never thought I would see the day.


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 3:38 a.m.

This is all part of the five year plan the BOE has and the parents are going to be blind sited by it.


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 1:21 a.m.

Actually this is nothing new to AAPS. In the 1950's students on the Northside of town used City buses to get to Slauson Jr HIgh known as Slauson Middle School. It saved a lot of parental trips back & forth across town!!

Sandy Castle

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 8:29 p.m.

This is public-tizing. Making use of an existing service. It's awesome!

Amy Biolchini

Fri, Aug 16, 2013 : 7:42 p.m.

Just in case you were wondering ... Formerly the AATA, the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority is now the new legal name for the body as of Thursday night when its board of directors voted to make the change. The change to the AAATA was made because the city of Ypsilanti has been added to the authority's bounds.


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 12:16 p.m.

Any idea how much they will spend bringing all their logos, stationery, etc up to date? Was that really necessary and a prudent use of taxpayer dollars? Nope.


Sat, Aug 17, 2013 : 1:18 a.m.

Will it become A3TA??