Getting kids to high school… now there’s a challenge that will capture lots of families’ attention.
Burlington High School is in the New North End, two to three miles from the South End, but tough to get to for many people. And the school department does not have a fleet of school buses. Families are responsible for getting their kids to school.
Many people would like to use the local transit authority buses, CCTA. However, from the South End the bus will deliver kids tens minute late for the start of the school day… which obviously doesn’t work. The only less popular option is the one before which drops students 45 minutes EARLY… I can’t imagine why that one isn’t loaded to the gills. 😉
So a concerned parent started asking questions. It seems that the bus schedule can’t be changed easily as it ties into a whole web of interwoven lines. And the school can’t easily adjust its timing. So, in the past, that might of been the end of it.
In this case, however, the parent turned to Front Porch Forum. She set up a petition on a free web service asking the school to start classes ten minutes later. She posted a link to her online petition on her neighborhood’s forum. Then, she got creative and asked a number of other parents to do the same on their neighborhood forums.
In a flash, she had 85 signatures in hand when she made the case at the regular school board meeting. And many of the forums were buzzing with follow-up comments from other neighbors. An issue was born.
Today a member of the CCTA board weighed in across several neighborhood forums. While far from resolved, this longstanding problem moved into the spotlight overnight because one determined parent made effective use of Front Porch Forum. Who and what issue is next?
Posted in: Burlington, Community Building, Front Porch Forum, Good Government, Stories
Ghost of Midnight is an online journal about fostering community within neighborhoods, with a special focus on Front Porch Forum (FPF). My wife, Valerie, and I founded FPF in 2006... read more
Front Porch Forum is awesome! I started out feeling like I was just an individual with a problem of my own to solve. Through Front Porch Forum, I realized that the bus issue was not my problem alone. In fact, as word got out through the forums, I kept hearing from more and more people that this was a major frustration with families of high school kids in roughly the southern half of the city. I think hearing about the issue through the forums kind of galvanized people to action: more people called the CCTA and the high school and the school board, and now the issue is getting some focus. It’s wonderful. We have a wonderful city, and I think it’s about to get more wonderful.
Great to read your view on this, Margie. Thanks (as a parent in the South End) for getting this issue into play.
Yes, this is an important subject, affecting far more than just BHS students trying to get to class on time (though that’s important too).
CCTA service hasn’t fundamentally changed or improved in 20 years. There’s still no real Sunday service; still no late-night service; still no 15-minute headways on the North Avenue line, CCTA’s most heavily used route; and still no truly regional buy-in (CCTA is funded and governed by five towns only).
This is not because the good folks running CCTA haven’t tried. (They’ve succeeded in funding and implementing some longer commuter routes, such as the connection to Monpelier.) But, as the quote from Chapin Spencer on this blog indicates, we’ve got to expand major funding sources beyond the local property tax and build more than a bare-bones service.
I would submit that, in the longer run, the only way to do this is to create disincentives to driving in the form of higher gas taxes, which would then be used to fund public transport. Or, to put it another way, higher gas taxes would mean that the cost of driving your car would more closely reflect the true costs of that activity to society. (Present gas taxes don’t come close to paying for the infrastructural, social, and environmental costs of automobile use.)
The truth – as exemplified by the best public transportation systems around the world – is that you won’t build really decent and well used public transportation without such disincentives to driving, without making drivers pay more of the costs.
Until we recognize this, efforts to establish a truly regional, full-service public transportation system in Burlington and Chittenden County (not to mention efforts to curb global warming – with driving accounting for more than a third of our carbon-dioxide emissions) will never get off the ground.