Ann Arbor schools to put more students on public buses this fall
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.
AnnArbor.com file photo
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.
- Find detailed information about bus route times for both AAPS and AAATA routes on the district's website
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.