School bus route to continue at least temporarily

Western Placer Unified wants to give ridership a chance to increase
By: Patty McAlpin Lincoln News Messenger Reporter
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School officials will continue a new bus route serving students in the south end of the district until the end of the year to give ridership a chance to increase. “We promised the parents this route,” said Western Placer Unified School District board clerk Brian Haley. “It would be bad faith to get rid of the route after only three weeks. We need to give this a chance to pick up.” The district’s board President Damian Armitage said the district also needs to step up its efforts to advertise the service. Board member Paul Carras said he wants the board to revisit the issue in January. The “Zebra Express” was started this school year to serve the south portion of the district and the high school. Operation of the route costs $50,000, primarily for personnel. The original route began at Catta Vedera and ended at Lincoln High School, with stops at the Twelve Bridges Library and Lincoln Crossing Marketplace. Western Placer Unified School District board members voted unanimously to continue the new route minus the stop at Catta Vedera due to a lack of ridership at that stop. No riders catch the bus at Catta Vedera, nine get on the bus at Twelve Bridges Library and three riders board the bus at Lincoln Crossing Marketplace on average. Eliminating the Catta Vedera stop reduces the cost of the bus service to $46,300, according to a district staff report. At the present time, no students would be affected and, if a future student who lived in the Catta Vedera wanted to ride the bus, they could go to the library stop. The only other bus route within city limits serves Carlin C. Coppin Elementary School and Twelve Bridges Middle School. “Because the Zebra Express is a new route, we didn’t know what the ridership would be,” said school district Superintendent Scott Leaman. “We never had an express route from the south to Lincoln High School before. We started the route because of the feedback we got from parents who had difficulty dropping off students at Lincoln High School. They had to come into town to drop off students and then turn around and drive to work in Roseville and Rocklin. The employment centers are south of us. This way, families can go off to work and know students will get to school.” The school district cut bus transportation within the city limits down to one route two years ago. But the district still transports 600 students in the Placer County portion of the district to and from school. The school board also approved a request from district officials to allow “guest riders” to ride the bus for $250 per year. Parents would pay for their students to ride the current route between schools. An example would be a student in the Carlin C. Coppin Elementary School area who wants to ride to the high school. Although this is not an assigned route, students are able to catch the bus at Carlin C. Coppin Elementary School and ride to the high school where the students transfer to other buses. Leaman said the district is not interested in expanding the current routes within the city limits but wants to remain open to students who would like to use the transportation system’s empty seats. “We view this as a win-win for everyone,” Leaman said. “We will be able to maximize our ridership to help offset costs without adding routes and parents will be able to access our transportation system in a new way.” Carras said his only concern would be if a guest rider was “bumped” and parents didn’t know about it. That would present a safety issue, according to Carras. District Director of Transportation Mark Derosett said parents would be notified in an appropriate amount of time to make other transportation arrangements if there is no room on the bus.