By MICHAEL GARETH JOHNSON
At the start of school in September, hundreds of kids across Queens were left stranded when buses did not pick them up and take them to school. Elected officials cracked down quickly on the companies leaving kids stranded. This week they went a step further, passing a host of bills to better monitor bus companies in order to ensure they are taking care of our kids.
The comprehensive STOP legislation, standing for Student Transportation Oversight Package, was born out of data collected by the City Council that found that bus delays averaged more than 28 minutes, often caused by traffic and mechanical problems. Some buses were delayed considerably longer. The Package includes the requirement that GPS technology be put on all buses going forward and that all bus drivers have two-way radios. Lawmakers are also requiring the Department of Education (DOE) to better track complaints from students and parents about bus drivers, and to follow through with investigations where warranted.
Queens Council Member Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) included a bill requiring the DOE to share a School Bus Bill of Rights.
“This package of school bus safety legislation will help ensure that all students have safe and timely transportation to and from school. No-show buses, massive delays in service and unsuitable drivers negatively impact parents, children and educators alike,” Dromm said. “These bills will help restore parents’ confidence in yellow school buses by implementing new safety measures, improving bus procedures and ensuring that families using DOE transportation are aware of their rights.”
The City Council also put forth a series of recommendations to the DOE on how to improve bus transportation for disabled students.
“When parents put their children on a school bus, they expect their kids will travel safely and arrive on time. The recent issues we have seen — with buses failing to show up and students left stranded hours on end — are terrifying, especially for students with disabilities and very young children. What a horrible way to start the year for these kids and families. We must do everything to ensure our students’ safety and alleviate distress for their parents,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.