An important perspective that’s often overlooked in the pupil transportation industry is that of the passengers. Until last June, my morning routine included spending an hour on a Blue Bird. I know very well the attitudes of most of my peers when it comes to school buses, and I’d like to share some of my observations.
I like school buses. No matter how cold, tired and cranky I was, seeing the TC/2000 coming up the road, shining in the morning sunlight, always put a smile on my face. The only thing that would have made me happier would have been a Crown Supercoach. Unfortunately, I’m the exception. Let’s face it, FMVSS 222 isn’t exactly the most comfortable seat design. The buses bounce, they smell, they’re loud, and to most students, they’re ugly. My classmates don’t know about how safe they are, or why they’re designed the way they are, so they have very little respect for the buses.
You won’t be surprised to learn this, but many students don’t like their drivers. I think this issue has been discussed sufficiently, so I’ll just say this: Remember that drivers are an important part of our lives. While earning our respect is their top priority, establishing a friendship with us is also important, and it can make the bus ride more pleasant for everyone.
Everyone is affected by behavior problems. If the kid in the back seat hits the kid next to him, it affects the kid in the front seat, too. Aside from the obvious safety issue of distracting the driver, there are less obvious effects of behavior problems. Not only does everyone witness the driver yell at a misbehaving student, but the other passengers often have to wait while the driver pulls over to handle the problem. This impacts everyone on board. The most common reason I’ve heard for a student not liking to ride the bus is the behavior of the other students on the route. Oftentimes, in combatting misbehavior, a driver can get a reputation for being mean. Yes, this reputation makes kids afraid to break the rules, but it also makes them afraid of the driver. That fear-based relationship makes the ride a lot less pleasant, and that’s one reason friendship between driver and student is so important.
The biggest issue I’ve seen with regard to bus service is passenger confusion. I always paid attention to the inner workings of our transportation department, and it was easy to see how it might seem simple to figure out which bus to get on. But I’ve seen way too many people get on the wrong bus because the “spare” had a different route number on it. In general, I think the industry is doing a great job. I have a great deal of respect for everyone involved, and I hope to be a part of the industry. I know the problems and issues you face daily, but you might not realize that your passengers have problems and issues of their own. Try to remember what an important role you play in our lives.
Phil Blanchard-Krulic is a freshman at Simon's Rock College for Younger Scholars in Massachusetts