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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.

Jim Eastwood October 10, 2011 at 10:39 AM
Good Morning Fairfield !!! Great A move in the right direction !!!! Stop at each Studebt's House????? Really ???? What are we running a Limo Service ?? Running to the stop--How about getting up 15 Mins earlier ???? Parents where are you ?? One Hour Bus ride---Look at thesurrounding area and the rest of the world !! Society's Spoiled Kids ?? How about walking In the interest of the Enviroment and Physical fitness Good Morning all Have a GREAT DAY !!!
Stephanie foote October 10, 2011 at 11:22 AM
I agree that stopping in front of each student's house is ridiculous, but my child would have to get up awfully early in the morning to get a head start walking from Stratfield to the Tomlinson!! Now maybe if we were put into the middle school that is actually walking distance from our home (Woods) that would be a different story, but that makes sense so that's not going to happen. But really, she could wait at a bus stop, but at this point I'll be driving anyway , I can't put my kid through an hour bus ride when I would never want to do that myself , call me spoiled, sorry.
Fairfield native October 10, 2011 at 12:43 PM
Name calling is counterproductive in a conversation- it diminishes your point and turns off the reader. People are more likely to take your seriously when you don't put the jabs in there. Just make a point without passive aggressive emotion- then you will be heard.
R. Ludlowe October 10, 2011 at 01:40 PM
what's a studebt?
transporter October 10, 2011 at 01:47 PM
Buses DO NOT stop at every student's home. Is this reporting for real? Caitlin I know you are from out of town but has anyone made you aware that there is a municipal election in Fairfield in 3 weeks? The bus story is gettin' a bit old.
Caitlin Mazzola (Editor) October 10, 2011 at 03:58 PM
Thank you for your feedback. Don't worry, I know there's an election coming and I've got a lot of pre-election coverage coming. Be on the lookout for it. As for the school bus routes/Tomlinson issues, this was the last point I wanted to address - the bus routes. The transportation manager, John Ficke, did say the buses pick up and drop off in front of riders' houses. He did not mention any exceptions, though if there are some, please let us know in this thread.
Caitlin Mazzola (Editor) October 10, 2011 at 04:01 PM
I thank everyone for the feedback so far, and the impressive number of votes the poll got this morning (I admit to misspelling "individual.") Anyway, we've got some Facebook feedback regarding this issue. Patrick V. Lau said, on group stops vs. individual stops: "That's how it was done in the 80's and prior... and i gotta believe its saves gas from all the stop and go... and i cant believe how some stops are less than 5 houses away..." Keep the comments rolling and the votes coming!
tfd October 10, 2011 at 05:52 PM
One stretch of my daughters FWMS bus route, of approximately 800 has 4 stops. One at the first corner, the next at another corner (about 25 feet from the first stop), another in front of someone's house (she requested her own stop) and then at another corner. It is absurd. The distance between the stop at the house and the final corner is 227 feet. Now I do feel for the kids that have the long bus rides, but sometimes I wonder if we had less stops the buses could move a little quicker.
tfd October 10, 2011 at 06:33 PM
that shoudl read "800 feet"
Kristen October 10, 2011 at 06:39 PM
I don't think Mr. Ficke was saying that there are designated bus stops in front of every child's house; rather that kids aren't getting to the bus stop in time, and they are running out the door of their houses as the bus is going by so the bus stops there to pick them up. The writing of this article gives the wrong impression. On my child's FWMS route, there aren't any designated stops that are closer than 100 yards to one another (most distances are quite a bit further). If you think your child's route doesn't make sense or stops too often, you might consider making that suggestion to the transportation department. I did that a couple of years ago when our elementary school route was taking a very inefficient way around our neighborhood, and the route was officially changed. All routes can be seen here: http://www.fairfieldschools.org/parent_resources_transportation_bus_routes.htm
Caitlin Mazzola (Editor) 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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