POLL: Fairfield Adjusting Bus Routes

Transportation Manager John Ficke discusses methods of trimming the bus rides to and from school, though there have been no significant reductions in the routes to date.

Fairfield’s students district-wide may still be feeling the of – namely the to and from school – but Transportation Manager John Ficke can assure that he and education officials are endeavoring to at least trim those commutes.

“Our current goal is to get them to school on time and to get them home safely,” Ficke said.

He and other administrators have been monitoring the bus routes to adjust them as much as possible, but it’s not going to shorten the routes significantly, he said.

Due to redistricting, “there are more students that are further spread out, and it takes longer to get them to school,” Ficke said.

There has been some improvement since the beginning of the school year, however. Ficke has heard from some parents that their children’s afternoon rides have been cut down. This is mainly due to drivers becoming familiar with the routes.

“We had some reports of drivers turning down dead ends,” he said. “When you’ve got a 30-foot bus; it takes time to turn around.”

Rides to school could be cut down if students take their part in getting to the bus on time. Ficke referred to the transportation office’s policies that students wait outside of their homes for the bus five minutes ahead of the bus’s scheduled stop to quicken the drive.

Since the buses stop at houses – as opposed to corner streets – “it’s different than stopping at a corner and putting six kids on a bus,” Ficke said. “If a kid is running out the door as the bus drives by, it slows it down.”

Ficke added that he and other officials are using GPS to pinpoint who is using the bus and who’s not. If there is a stop where students consistently are not getting on the bus, the driver can go ahead and move on to the next stop.

“We can tell if they’re getting on, or which buses are coming early,” Ficke said. That helps determine which routes need to be adjusted.

The most important thing right now is that students make sure they are getting on the right buses at the right time, Ficke said.

He added that he and his team are taking into account both private and public school bus routes.

Check the Board of Education’s Transportation page for more on the office’s busing and other transportation procedures.

Caitlin Mazzola October 10, 2011 at 08:23 PM
Hi Kristen, Thank you for the feedback and the suggestion for parents. I reread my notes to confirm; Mr. Ficke had said the buses stop at houses, not corners. I interpreted that as the buses stop at the households where there are riders - so, each rider's, or family of riders, house. But a few people have said that isn't quite so, and I updated that sentence and the poll to reflect exactly what Mr. Ficke said. Thank you for the link with the routes.
Shelly T. October 10, 2011 at 08:54 PM
Caitlin, Did you ever ride a bus to school?? There are bus stops for multiple children, children who are not related to one another. MOST children walk to a designated bus stop. SOME children have a bus stop at the end of their driveway. This could be because they live on a busy street with no sidewalks, or it is most likely because the end of their driveway happens to be the neighborhood bus stop! Buses stop at the tops of streets as bus stops all the time, just read the bus routes that are printed in the newspapers, it's not hard to see that the MAJORITY of bus stops are at the beginning (corner) of a street. Buses don't stop on corners (four way) because they are dangerous. With all due respect, can we please get a seasoned reporter to cover Fairfield. Keep the comments coming because the more hits Caitlin gets the more money Patch makes, and the more money Patch makes, the more this deteriorating blog stays alive.
tfd October 10, 2011 at 10:15 PM
Caitlin, I don't think you were too far off base. I can only go by my children's bus routes, and the bus stops frequently. The elementary bus would sometimes stop every 2nd or 3rd house, and we are not talkiing about busy roads. From what I can tell the bus routes are not updated that frequently, and I really doubt anyone from transportation drives around checking the routes. One year we had two stops right next to each other. The bus driver didn't even have to press the gas pedal, the bus could just coast from stop to stop. Luckily the parents banded together and had all the kids stand at one stop. Someone from transportation needs to drive (in a car, they don't need a bus) each route and determine if it makes sense.
Kristen October 10, 2011 at 10:23 PM
Caitlin, I am quite certain that if Mr. Ficke said anything about buses stopping at houses and not at corners, it was in reference to kids running out of their houses late and not making it to the bus stops on time. The transportation department policy is that kids wait at their designated bus stops 5 minutes before the scheduled time, not in front of their houses as you report in this article. Although you may have reworded the article and the poll, to me they are still reflecting your misinterpretation of his comments. Your poll, quite frankly, is sensationalistic and of little journalistic value, in my opinion.
Kristen October 10, 2011 at 10:38 PM
I agree that the bus routes are not updated frequently, especially at the elementary level. My 4th grader's bus stop is listed as my next-door-neighbor's address, even though they haven't had kids in elementary school in 3 years. (The 5 kids who use this bus stop, however, really stand between our two houses.) That said, our middle school route has almost all of it's bus stops at intersections that are a fair distance away from each other. I do agree that they should take a fresh look at every route every year to get rid of unneeded stops and maximize efficiency.


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