Students Question Shuttle Crowding

The bus which transports students from Groves to Seaholm and vice versa. Overcrowding this year has raised safety concerns and could possibly be a problem for the district. PHOTO / CAROLINE SQUATRITO

   Dylan Packard has a problem.

   Every day the Seaholm senior rides the shuttle bus to Groves to get to his second hour, AP physics BC class.

   And every day he finds himself sitting in the aisle way instead of a seat.

   “Basically even though I leave my Seaholm class at the expected time, I arrive to a completely full bus,” Packard said.

Between carrying a backpack and an instrument, Packard said it’s hard to find a seat.

   “I find it detestable,” Packard said. “Most of the time I’m sitting on my clarinet case on the floor wedged between two seats filled with three people. Obviously there’s a bit of a shortage.”

Packard is one of the more than 50 students who ride the bus between first and second period.   

The 1.8 mile, six minute bus ride shuttles students every hour between Seaholm and Groves for different classes.

Legally, the bus is within its capacity, however students say it’s still a tight squeeze. 

Senior Ryan Vanderhoef said he has to put his legs on the aisle way.

 “It’s really crowded,” Vanderhoef said, “and there’s just not enough room.”

   Bus Driver David Danforth transports students to Groves and back each day.

   There are up to 54 students on the bus, and according to Danforth it should hold 44 students comfortably.

        “I think the regulations state you can have three kids to a seat legally,” Danforth said. “Now with the elementary kids, that’s possible, but with high school students, they’re too big.”

According to senior Sam Becker, riding the bus can be uncomfortable.

“Sometimes [a different bus driver] will make you sit three to a seat,” Becker said, “or on the floor.”

   According to Ken Micklash, a Pupil Transportation Consultant for the Michigan Department of Education, the crowding is legal, provided students stay off the aisle floor.

   “You’re legally allowed to have three to a seat,” Micklash said, “but if students are sitting on the floor, that is violating a safety code and it is illegal.”

      “We do not want any student body parts, book bags or equipment in the aisle way that would cause a risk of injury in an accident or block the emergency exits of a school bus,” General Manager of Durham School Services Chris Schoemann said.

Schoemann acknowledged that the logistics can be challenging.

   “This is three, 13 inch wide students per seat,” Schoemann said, “which we know is not the reality of a high school student, though it is possible.”  

  Packard disagreed.

“I can’t fit as a third person on a seat,” Packard said. “Legally no one should be sitting on the floor. If they slam the brakes I have nothing in front of me.”

    Finding a spot can be tough, even for students who make it on time to the bus.

    Senior Heather Shen takes AP French second hour at Groves and most days is forced to sit three to a seat.

   “I have to run from class if I want to sit with one person instead of two,” Shen said.

   Sophomore Caitlin Davis also takes the shuttle to Groves.

   “There’s three to a seat,” Davis said. “It’s definitely overcrowded.”

   Senior Cece Barron said she also finds herself sitting three to a seat, forcing her backpack on the floor.

  “It’s super crammed and super annoying,” Barron said. “It’s not safe either.”

Starting last week, Durham Transportation announced they will no longer be providing a back up bus to pick up late students.  

   According to a packet sent out October 4th from The Birmingham Transportation Department and the Birmingham Public Schools, students are arriving late to the shuttle buses and waiting for the next shuttle bus to transport them. That’s why the second bus was cancelled, effective October 15.

   According to Seaholm Principal Dee Lancaster, there never was a second late bus. It was simply the same bus doing a double loop from Seaholm to Groves.

 “We had students who knew there was this bus which made them either really super late for a Groves class or leaving really early from their Seaholm class,” Lancaster said. “Eventually we said no more double-loop.”

   This means students who may have an incident or for some reason can’t make it to the first bus have to find their own means of transportation.

  Packard said adding an additional bus is the only solution.

 “They need to be circuiting more buses to us,” says Packard, “I can’t think of any other options.”

 “I don’t want to encourage students to complain,” Danforth said, “but if you complained enough I would have to ask for a second bus, but I don’t know if they would give it to us.”

  Micklash said if students believe there is a potential safety concern, they must follow prescribed protocol.

  “Michigan is a local control state,” says Micklash. “To remove a safety concern the issue must be addressed to the transportation director, then to the principal, which must be followed through to the Legal Board of Education.

  As of press time, no formal complaints have been lodged with the transportation director.

   Lancaster says it depends upon the communication between the offices and dispatch of the shuttle service in order for the Seaholm administrators to know about an overcrowding.

   “Kids sitting in the aisle way is against the law,” Lancaster said. “I’ll call transportation, and find out whether they’re just not communicating.”

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