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Archive for Wednesday, February 13, 2002

District seeks input on pay-to-ride busing

February 13, 2002

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It's the turn of parents of 10,000 Lawrence public school children to drive the debate about the proposed pay-to-ride bus system.

One-page surveys on possible changes to the district's bus operation were distributed to parents last week by mail or sent home with students. The district requested surveys be returned to respective schools by today.

As of Tuesday, only 300 had been submitted.

"That's disappointing. This is a very, very important survey," said Rick Gammill, the district's director of transportation, safety and facilities planning.

The Lawrence school board ordered the survey to assess public reaction to a proposal to drop 1,800 students from the district's free busing program.

Approximately 2,000 students living more than 2.5 miles from their designated school would still be bused free in accordance with state law.

Students dropped from routes as a result of the district's cost-cutting move would be eligible for the pay-to-ride program. Specific fees haven't been proposed.

Gammill said a strong response rate on the survey he'd like to see 5,000 would help the school board and the district's bus contractor, Laidlaw Transit, to make an informed decision about the issue.

"Would 50 percent of parents be interested in something like this? We just don't know," Gammill said.

The survey asks parents to identify how many children they have in the district and how those children get to school. In addition, parents are to say whether they would be willing to pay for bus transportation as well as what fee range they'd prefer for the service.

Information about whether parents live next to the city's T bus route also has been requested.

Gammill said the school board is expected to make a decision about the pay-to-ride proposal in early March.

The idea was sent to the board by the district's budget committee, which is searching for $5 million in possible budget cuts for the 2002-2003 school year.

Currently, the district provides free service to elementary students living more than 1.5 miles from school, junior high students who are more than 2 miles from school and high school students more than 2.5 miles from school. The district also buses children short distances if they live near dangerous streets.

Limiting service to students living 2.5 miles or more from school would save the district an estimated $434,000 annually.

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