Why School Bus Seatbelts Opens a Big Can of Worms

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I love this story on CBC about the federal government opening a task force to investigate seat belts, school bus safety and potential regulations that might follow.

It’s a big, ugly can of worms.

I won’t get distracted by the comments, especially those from Con angry WASP Yellow Jacket types that are upset about the idea of protecting our children.

God forbid, we actually try to do the right thing.

I think what a task force – a good call in my view – will begin to expose is just how badly managed our communities are and how nasty a can of worms the whole problem really is.

Think about is for a second:

  • Most school buses are owned by privately contracted services that have been soaking the public for decades without any kind of analysis of the cost/benefit to society
  • ¬†They’re usually driven by union members, most of whom have organizational heads that refuse to adjust or adapt to potential requests to take measures to keep kids safe. They have come out swinging basically objecting to the idea of change.
  • The buses are massive, they may or may not be at full capacity and frequently add to congestion.
  • Bussing as a concept has only materialized over the last 40 years or so and are primarily a response to sprawl, poor planning for education and lack of commitment to smaller, more nimble schools.
  • New schools placed out the suburbs (clean, up to code) are more popular choices with parents than ‘downtown’ schools that may not be up to date when it comes to even basic maintenance.
  • Developers keep pushing for more post-secondary student housing in core areas, especially with smaller communities, resulting in parents and partners looking to the suburbs for quiet maintained areas to raise their kids.
  • Rural communities tend to rely on bus services more than more densely packed urban groupings of housing.
  • Parents wind up driving kids more often than not (I’m guilty of this!), again contributing to congestion on the roads.

The underlying themes? Special interest groups and sprawl are the biggest contributors to the ‘need’ for additional buses.

With this in mind, it’s important to understand that launching a task force will expose so many of these contradictions when it comes to municipal and urban/rural planning.

The solution is simple: intensify areas, encourage nodes, improve the use of older schools and update them so they are attractive, go to smaller buses and ‘grandfather’ some cases with services so that companies have an opportunity to replace their fleets with more respectable vehicles. Putting an end to multiple boards would also help parents find non-denominational schools closer to their homes.

Oh yeah … and stop listening to special interest groups. Our kids’ safety might get in the way of their profits.

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