By Victor Vassallo, Campbell Bright, and Daniel Fox
With the growing population of the Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) system, the buses at TC Williams (TC) have become more crowded than they have ever been. Buses have begun to overflow with students and both students and teachers have experienced frustration as ACPS struggles to create a viable solution. Students now sit three to a seat in some buses and in some instances are forced to stand. This creates a dangerous atmosphere for students as ACPS school buses are not equipped to handle this many people. Where city buses and metro cars have hand bars and railings, ACPS buses have no such support leading many students without a seat to improvise for their own safety. Many clutch seats, while taller students use the ceiling. Students will even sit and lie down on the floor of the bus.
Malcolm Kerr, a sophomore who rides bus 61, said, “I feel like there was an error in the planning with the transportation department. The routes and stops look like there were planned by someone who has no idea of the Alexandria area.” Malcolm’s frustration is understandable as his bus had up to five kids who were unable to sit down on the route to school, even with students sitting three to a seat.
On the other hand, bus routes such as bus 4 have students sitting one to a seat. Many bus routes seem as though they were simply reused from last year instead of being corrected to account for changes in the amount of students at each stop.
On top of this, some bus routes make it almost impossible for buses to arrive on time. Students can end up missing 5-10 minutes of their first period class and for students who can eat breakfast it can be even more of a challenge. With breakfast lines closing at 8:30 late arriving students cannot rely on school breakfasts.
A solution has been produced by Alexandria City Public School (ACPS) that allows TC students to ride for free on the DASH bus with student ID starting on September 25. “This program will provide a valued service to our students and families, some of whom face significant transportation challenges in navigating between home, school, extra-curricular activities and work” said Interim Superintendent, Dr. Lois F. Berlin.
For many, this new arrangement is an improvement to the school buses. Sophomore Axel Reumann commented, “For the most part [the DASH bus] less crowded and you get to your destination faster because the bus doesn’t need to stop at every stop.”
However, this program does have its restrictions. Only three buses, the AT5, AT6, and AT2 actually stop at TC’s king street campus, forcing many kids to take two if not three buses to get to and from the high school often making the school buses a more time efficient mode of transportation.
After school activity buses are no easier. The earliest activity buses run at 4:45 pm and do not even run on Mondays and Fridays. This greatly discourages students who need extra help from staying after on those days. Between making students consistently tardy and preventing students from staying after school for extra help, TC school buses are as much a frustration to students academically as they are for transportation.