DanvilleSanRamon.com

Newsfront - November 16, 2007

County to provide busing in San Ramon Valley

Students will have bus options beginning September 2009

by Natalie O'Neill

Transportation officials told the Alamo Community Council that affordable school busing will be provided to the San Ramon Valley Unified School District by the county, starting in September 2009. They asked for feedback from community groups in unincorporated areas as soon as possible.

"The main criterion is to relieve traffic congestion," said Heba El-Guendy, Senior Transportation Planner for Contra Costa County.

A survey taken in April helped transportation officials determine that school busing should be available for the most congested areas and for parents who indicated they would use the busing. County officials worked with the Town of Danville and the school district on the survey.

About 2,600 families of the 20,000 in the district completed the survey.

"The ones they are rolling out are the worst of the worst, as far as congestion," said Gina Ferretti, south county field representative for District 3 Supervisor Mary N. Piepho.

Approximately eight routes per school would be available, and funds for the busing have already been allocated by the county.

The survey showed that after annual busing fees surpassed $200 per family, the community had less interest in using the service. That's one factor officials are giving consideration, El-Guendy said. Parents will pay for a percentage of the busing, which will likely be under $200 per year.

In June, school board trustees voted to stop providing busing to schools in the district, after determining not enough students used the service.

Home-to-school busing services operated at about $287,000 in the red for the district per year. To keep it going, the district found that families would have had to pay over $1,000 annually.

Alamo Community Council members said the county service would greatly help gridlock in Alamo in the morning and afternoon. And they explained that many parents still hold tight to the idea of driving their kids to school.

"It's really an issue of community attitude," said Mike Gibson, of Alamo Improvement Association.

Parents of elementary school children had the most concerns about the distance their children would need to walk to the bus stop.

"Young parents today are very concerned about kidnapping," said Diane Barley, of the Alamo Police Services committee.

"Overall, this is a safe area. But they don't see it that way. A person's perception of safety varies," El-Guendy said.

Of the parents surveyed, 88 percent said safety was their No. 1 priority when busing students to school, 79 percent cited reliability, and 52 percent said their family schedule was most important.

Other factors for determining routes included how much time the students spend on the bus, where students live, and physical constraints such as a lack of sidewalks.

"I've seen mothers drive their kids home a block and a half from school ... You're better off with your kid on a bus from an economic and pollution point of view," Alamo resident Smitty Schmidt said at the meeting.

Transportation officials have presented the survey to the Diablo MAC, the Alamo Community Council, Diablo Community Services District and the Blackhawk Home Owners Association.

The survey and county power point presentation can be viewed at the county Web site, www.co.contra-costa.ca.us/depart/cd/transportation.htm. Members of community groups should contact Steven L. Goetz at 335-1240 after viewing the survey to give feedback.

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