PPS supports families with $300 a month in light of cancelled buses

A group of Lincoln High School students walks from MAX to school Monday morning.

Portland Public Schools (PPS) is offering $300 a month of “transportation support” to families of students impacted by long-term cancellation of certain school bus routes.

Students at Lincoln and Benson High Schools received emails late Friday afternoon confirming that PPS had suspended a total of 13 routes (five routes serving Benson and eight routes serving Lincoln) because of a region-wide driver shortage. Administrators chose to prioritize younger students and students receiving Special Education services in selecting which routes to cut. The Lincoln email further noted that Lincoln and Benson “were the only two PPS high schools receiving bus route service” and that “Students at the other district high schools do not have bus service.” (Read the complete letter to the LHS community.)

The Lincoln letter went on to suggest other transportation options including: 1) nearby parking lots, 2) a couple west-of-the-hills Park & Rides, and 3) a third-party “Carpool to School” app for which the district will not accept responsibility.

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PPS high school students receive a TriMet logo on their student identification card which allows them to ride the bus or MAX free of charge during the school year. In the past, students out of the TriMet service range received yellow bus service to school. Lincoln’s student catchment boundary runs from north of the St. Johns Bridge to south of OHSU (a distance of about 10 miles), and from the river to the west slope of the Tualatin Hills. Students living in the far reaches qualify for yellow bus service.

Benson High School has temporarily located to the distant Marshall High School campus during renovation of their building. Some of those students also qualify for yellow bus service because of their distance from Marshall.

I suspected that the cancellation of these routes might be causing snarls of Uber and Lyft drop-offs, and traffic jams of reluctant parents chauffeuring their children. But when I stopped by the Lincoln campus early this morning, I was surprised to find what looked like the orderly beginning of another week.

[TriMet acts quickly to fix back-to-school bus crowding]

It seemed like most students took the MAX. Several of them told me that they lived near Skyline Blvd and drove or were driven to MAX stations west of the hills. In other words, any car commuting was happening outside of downtown Portland. One father I spoke with was not a happy camper, he had just dropped off a carpool of four students and agreed with me that it was “a pain-in-the-ass.” I asked about the $300 check and he told me he had not received it yet.

I am aware that I talked to a biased sample of students who had arrived to school on time. Either our transportation system is more robust than I had given it credit for, or I was not reaching the families that are most-burdened by the bus route cancellations. But I didn’t find the gridlock I expected around Lincoln, which is especially surprising given that Salmon street is currently blocked off due to construction of the new campus at the corner of 18th.

If your Benson or Lincoln family has a yellow-bus cancellation story to share, please contact me or write a comment.

Lisa Caballero

— Lisa Caballero, lisacaballero853@gmail.com
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Catie Gould (Contributor)
Catie
1 year ago

I heard the opposite today “do you have kids? school traffic is worse than ever”. Then we both lamented the lack of city level data collection that would confirm. Looking forward to what you learn next.

David Hampsten
1 year ago

I wonder, how are the other 8 Portland school districts handling this? Are they also suffering from driver shortages?

joan
1 year ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

I think just about every school district is dealing with this, which has been covered in local and national news. For example, see “Why America has a school bus driver shortage.’

Mike Quigley
Mike Quigley
1 year ago

Driver shortage? What’s the pay? A friend hired a homeless guy to help him clean up a property. Paid him $15 an hour plus lunch. The guy worked two days and quit. Said he can make more money panhandling.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Quigley

That’s sad commentary on multiple levels.

cmh89
cmh89
1 year ago
Reply to  Mike Quigley

. Paid him $15 an hour plus lunch.

Uwajimaya is starting workers at $18+ an hour. There are lots of better jobs out there that are far less risk for contracting COVID-19. $15 an hour isn’t great.

This is the end result of requiring everyone to have a college degree to be honest. Pay front-line workers like crap, talk down about the job, and then magically you don’t have anyone to do it because they all went in to something else.

Nah, that cant be it. It’s probably that everyone is lazy. No one wants to work anymore!

Watts
Watts
1 year ago
Reply to  cmh89

That’s $15 after tax, assuming the income wasn’t reported.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 year ago
Reply to  Watts

Now he can come close to paying the Arts Tax.

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  cmh89

How is working to “clean up a property” a Covid risk? Seems like an extremely low-risk for Covid. Definitely less than a grocery store job…

JeffP
JeffP
1 year ago

Aren’t bus costs buried in the operations costs for schooling and aren’t they paid through taxes? I honestly do not know but parents are not charged to have buses pick up their kids – we all pay fr that service; where is my refund for lack of services provided?
Even when downtown business I have worked for offered stipends for transportation to keep employees from driving downtown, it was not that much.

cmh89
cmh89
1 year ago
Reply to  JeffP

where is my refund for lack of services provided?

It’s not a refund, it’s a “We screwed up and can’t get your kid to school so here’s some money to use to get your kid to school temporarily while we try and fix the problem”

JeffP
JeffP
1 year ago
Reply to  cmh89

Still quite the profit margin over the value[tax] paid for the service not rendered. Would be interesting to see the individual cost outlay for a single student bus ride relative to the tax paid.

Middle of the Road Guy
Middle of the Road Guy
1 year ago
Reply to  JeffP

Don’t forget the Pandemic EBT payments that have gone out to all children 18 and under who attend public schools.

https://www.oregonlive.com/education/2021/07/most-oregon-children-soon-will-receive-up-to-1100-apiece-to-help-buy-food.html

Sigma
Sigma
1 year ago

It did not go to all students. It only went to students who either: 1) qualify for free or reduced price meals, regardless of what school they attend, or 2) attend specific schools that have disproportionate numbers of students who qualify, regardless of whether they as individuals qualify.

For example: all students at Tubman got it. Not all students at the elementary schools that feed into Tubman got it.

Bjorn
Bjorn
1 year ago
Reply to  JeffP

Yellow bus service is paid for out of a separate pot of money that can only be used for yellow buses. Portland isn’t allowed to use if for the transit passes or for safe routes to school for example from what I understand. I assume that these 300 dollar cash handouts are coming out of the general fund as I don’t think they would be allowed to spend the yellow bus money on subsidizing people driving their kids to school.

Dave
Dave
1 year ago

Dumb question–wouldn’t it be cheaper to buy Tri Met passes for middle and high schoolers?

joan
1 year ago

Yes, Lisa has it right. Every PPS high school student has a Trimet pass already. Only Lincoln and Benson had any yellow buses this year, Benson only for students who lived a certain distance away from Marshall (so not all Benson students), and Lincoln for students who live outside of Trimet service.

Chris I
Chris I
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave

I would imagine that a lot of parents would not want their middle schoolers alone on Trimet, for various reasons. I know I don’t.

High schoolers already have Trimet passes.