The need for more bus services was the most important issue for the public in a transportation review initiated by the Abbotsford School District.
The district has been taking the public’s feedback since December in an effort to open a dialogue amid budget uncertainty and possible route cuts.
“We need to keep busing available,” says one person’s comment in a district presentation on Jan. 27. “With a large number of working parents, some kids rely solely on the bus to get to and from school.”
The increasing demand for service comes after the district ran a deficit of nearly $500,000 in the 2018/2019 school year. In December, the district’s secretary treasurer, Ray Velestuk, said the challenges of uncertain provincial funding, recruiting and retaining bus drivers, increasing demand, and an overextended budget were a concern.
“We continue to spend money for transportation services beyond the resources available, which negatively impacts the district’s budget and takes money away from educational services,” said Velestuk said.
“If we didn’t have that loss in transportation, that money would be reinvested.”
The province began cutting grants for transportation services beginning in 2012/2013 after nearly a decade of steady funding.
After bus services, the highest ranked concerns among the public were related to traffic around schools, getting transportation services to the city’s more rural areas and keeping the bus-eligibility zones the same.
“Busing for children outside the current walking threshold needs to be maintained,” reads another public comment. “Children walking these long distances is not reasonable or safe.”
To be eligible for free bus services now, students must live outside of the walk limit of 3.2 kilometres for elementary schools and four kilometres for middle/high schools, have special needs or live near dangerous road crossings. Others students are subject to fees.
Currently, out of the district’s 20,000 students, 2,961 take the bus on 41 different routes.
Transportation recommendations by the district will be presented in April, followed by budget approval in June.