Traffic Jam: Transportation suffers in first few weeks

Unobskey speculates on school start times as cause


Credit: Flickr user pscf11

Many buses arrived to various Wayland Public Schools late during the first few weeks of school due to the change in traffic throughout Wayland. “What was happening was a lot of kids were getting here late, a lot of the buses were late, so we moved some of the buses earlier,” WPS Superintendent Arthur Unobskey said. “We still have some buses that are coming a few minutes late, so we will probably need to make some adjustments for those as well.”

Meredith Prince and Caitlin Newton

Many buses showed up late to pick up students during the first few weeks of school, causing them to arrive late at WHS. Changes in traffic patterns and parental habits stemming from the new school start times seem to be the driving cause of the backed-up roads.

Many elementary students who signed up to take the bus to school are now being driven by their parents, which Wayland Public Schools Superintendent Arthur Unobskey has discovered since the start of the new school year.

“What we have discovered is that there has been a significant increase in the number of kids who are being driven to school at the elementary level from last year,” Unobskey said.

An increasing number of parents driving their children to school has created more traffic in areas in town and close to schools, which has caused many buses to arrive late, according to Unobskey.

“Elementary parents, because school starts earlier, [may] have decided that they want to drive their kid to school because it’s just on their way to work, and they get to spend that extra time with their kid in the car,” Unobskey said. “What happens is that there are just many more cars on the road, and that’s where the traffic is happening. ”

As more cars are getting stuck in the morning traffic, the Wayland buses are too. In order to create bus routes, Wayland contracts with a company called First Student that uses a program called Transfinder. They also communicate with a transportation coordinator in order to design the most efficient pick-ups.

“We develop the routes every year based on who signs up for buses,” Unobskey said. “Because obviously there is a turnover in students, that’s redesigned every year. So, there is a computer program where we use data from previous years on [metrics such as] how long buses take [and] how fast they have to go to design routes.”

Although the bus routes were planned with thorough research and effort, an unforeseen traffic issue has caused many of the buses to be delayed. The WPS Administration has attempted to redesign bus routes to cut down the number of stops, but due to the lack of sidewalks in Wayland, it is difficult to have groups of students meet up in one area for a bus stop as opposed to many little stops.

“We’ve got to get the students here on time, that’s the bottom line,” Unobskey said. “We’ve done a little bit of redesigning routes, but the challenge in Wayland is that there are not a lot of sidewalks. So, really, the only option we have is to move everything earlier. That’s mainly what we’ve done.”

While moving bus pick-up times earlier has helped the students arrive at school on-time more often, Unobskey believes it is not the best solution – rather, more students should ride the bus than be driven, in order to minimize the number of cars on the road.

“It would be wonderful if, from my perspective, more kids would ride the bus,” Unobskey said. “It would just make everything more efficient.”

Many students who ride the bus have become frustrated with their consistent late arrivals to school when the school year began. In fact, 50 out of 63 students surveyed claimed their bus had been late to pick them up and then late to arrive at school. Junior Harry Kiesman rides the bus and notes the differences on his bus as opposed to last year, but he attributes the delays to an alternative reason to start times.

“We’ve just picked up more kids [than last year]. I don’t think the start time has changed the route, but I think the administration did, and I don’t really know why because all of the buses get here late now.” junior Harry Kiesman said. “My bus was getting to school late consistently.”

As many students who ride the bus are noticing a difference in traffic, students who drive themselves have been facing the same issue. While some students believe traffic is about the same as last year or even gotten better, over 50% of the 162 students surveyed believe it has gotten worse.

“Last year, I would be able to get to school from my house in about 10 minutes, and the worst days with traffic would be around 15 minutes,” senior Jenna Ferrick said. “Now, the usual amount of time is almost 20-25 minutes. The traffic on Route 27 is backed up all the way to my driveway, and I sit there in traffic waiting to get to school as people are going to work at the same time.”

The amount of traffic students hit depends where they are in Wayland relative to the high school, so some students have had a much worse experience than others regarding the backup.

“It’s frustrating because I know for certain people, traffic has gotten better, but for the majority, it has gotten worse,” Ferrick said. “It just depends on where you are in Wayland.”

While Ferrick has experienced a harsh change in traffic and an increase in the time it takes for her to get to school, senior Sarah Davis has a different account.

“There’s not really as much traffic as we used to have,” Davis said. “If I do hit traffic, it is at a different point in my route than last year.”

Ultimately, the traffic is caused by the increased amount of cars on the road at the time before school starts. Because school start times for WHS are later this year, adults who are driving to their jobs as they did last year may be another cause of the traffic.

“Some of that traffic is also due to the fact that commuters that don’t have kids are just running into traffic from the school start times change, they may redesign their timing and that might help too,” Unobskey said. “I think right now unless we have a lot more parents put their kids on the bus, we’ll be dealing with this traffic.”