MINNEAPOLIS — Some parents here are voicing their concerns about a new move to have high school students use the transit system instead of riding yellow buses to school.
Minneapolis Public Schools announced earlier this year that it would expand its transit ridership program, replacing yellow buses for eligible high school students beginning with the 2012-13 school year, which starts on Monday.
Shelly Jonas, executive administrator of the Minnesota School Bus Operators Association, told SBF that the local Hmong community has been particularly vocal in its opposition to the plan. Some parents have cited concerns about the safety of their high schoolers riding transit buses; others have expressed worries about potentially long rides with transfers.
Critics of the switch to transit launched a Facebook page under the name “Put All Mpls HS Students Back on School Buses.”
“We are concerned that putting high school students on Metro Transit buses will put students at risk without creating any financial benefit for the school district,” the Facebook group said in one post.
Jonas noted that the fact that these parents are calling for yellow buses is an encouraging sign for school bus contractors, for whom competition from transit agencies is a national issue.
“It is very refreshing to see parents support and demand your services,” Jonas said.
Metro Transit spokespeople have been defending the high school rider program in recent press reports, saying that the Twin Cities transit system has one of the lowest injury rates in the country and a crime rate of 6.9 crimes per 100,000 trips. They have cited such security measures as the Metro Transit police force, GPS and surveillance cameras.
Minneapolis Public Schools has also noted that the transit plan will provide flexibility for high schoolers. District officials said earlier this year that the program "offers academic scheduling flexibility and greater access to the wide variety of learning opportunities at school and within the community, such as academic programs, athletics, jobs and other activities beyond the school day.”
The district has reportedly extended yellow bus service for one high school, Patrick Henry, until December.