Editorial: A major improvement in bus service

September 6, 2013 

The stories were alarming. Students getting home exceedingly late. Other students not getting picked up until well into the school day. Parents giving up on a school bus ever arriving and taking their children to school. Wake County’s transportation officials seemed to have learned some valuable lessons from the school bus fiasco of 2012 and they’ve worked hard to avoid a repeat of those problems.

There have been some problems, yes, but to be honest, it’s hard not to expect something to go wrong on the first day of implementing a complex plan like school bus service for all of Wake County’s schools.

Three weeks into the school year, the problems of last year seem largely to have dissipated. School leaders have learned that transporting tens of thousands of students to hundreds of schools is simply an endeavor that requires resources. Skimping on those resources causes the kinds of problems we saw last year.

No one wants Wake County’s school system to spend money needlessly. We expect them to be good stewards of its public funds. But we also expect efficient use of the dollars that are spent. And when school buses are part of the equation, timely pickup and delivery are certainly part of Wake County parents’ expectations.

Wake County schools, like most around the state, are trying to figure out how to do more with less. That’s commendable. And, it’s a challenge. But no one expects Wake County or any other school system for that matter, to do something at no cost. And we don’t expect them to skimp in areas that directly involve student safety.

We’re glad Wake County learned that lesson last year. And we’ve been largely pleased with the results. Parents, too, have had much less to say about bus service of late. Wake County has continued to try to make due on a bare-bones transportation budget. Buses are still delivering children home from school as late as 5 p.m. because buses are being used to deliver students along multiple routes.

That’s not likely to change. Nor should it. But Wake County has learned that cutting too far can have dire consequences as well.

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