THORNDIKE – Starting around 1990, Regional School Unit 3 (then MSAD 3), started running multiple buses over the same routes, picking up middle and high school students first, then returning for elementary school students.
Raymond Shute, current transportation director for the district, was a member of the school board at the time. As he recalls, the change was made in an attempt to fix some legitimate problems in the all-ages bus routes that had been used since the 1960s, but it introduced a host of others. A major side effect was that gas consumption and mileage skyrocketed.
The district returned to single bus runs this year, and as Shute sees it, it just makes sense.
The simplified system is still complex — as a map in the transportation director's office stuck with hundreds of pins attests — but single runs have reduced ride times for many students, and the shorter routes will almost certainly save gas and maintenance costs. The current system also does away with transfers, where students were brought to central locations then ferried the rest of the way in to school on a different bus.
On the down side, some parents have raised concerns about younger students riding with older ones, and the drivers of the district's bus fleet have seen their hours cut significantly.
Shute is biting his tongue on whether it's an improvement, but he recently sat down with the PenobscotBayPilot.com to at least give us an idea of how it works. Click the videos at right to watch.
Penobscot Bay Pilot reporter Ethan Andrews can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org