BikePortland.org

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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