Lax oversight leads to overcrowded bus, safety concerns

Students+who+ride+Bus+404+are+forced+to+sit+or+stand+in+the+aisle+because+of+overcrowding.+According+to+district+rules%2C+high+school+students+are+only+allowed+two+to+a+seat.
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Lax oversight leads to overcrowded bus, safety concerns

Students who ride Bus 404 are forced to sit or stand in the aisle because of overcrowding. According to district rules, high school students are only allowed two to a seat.

Students who ride Bus 404 are forced to sit or stand in the aisle because of overcrowding. According to district rules, high school students are only allowed two to a seat.

Tina Dang

Students who ride Bus 404 are forced to sit or stand in the aisle because of overcrowding. According to district rules, high school students are only allowed two to a seat.

Tina Dang

Tina Dang

Students who ride Bus 404 are forced to sit or stand in the aisle because of overcrowding. According to district rules, high school students are only allowed two to a seat.

Ian Blackburn and Amanda Nguyen

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After the final bell signals the end of a hectic school day, many Cleveland students are met with another, more dreadful form of chaos on the school bus. Riders of Bus 404 have stressed their frustrations about their commute home, the biggest complaint being the unseemly large number of people on the bus. Immediately rushing out of class and to the bus after school does nothing to guarantee that a student won’t have to share a seat with two other people. This raises questions regarding the maintenance of safety regulations as well as the number of riders who are actually assigned to the bus route.

Sophomore Cassandra Nguyen is frustrated by how difficult it can be to get a seat on the bus each day.

“There’s no free moment for me to stop and say, ‘Hi’ to my friends or to talk to the teacher about assignments,” she said. “There’s this overwhelming fear of not getting a seat or being that obnoxious person who asks to be the third person in a row.”

According to the Seattle Public Schools Transportation Service Standards, students from grades 6 to 12 must sit two to a seat. No standees are permitted on school/charter buses. However, according to students’ accounts, they are being seated three to a seat and standing or sitting in the aisle on a regular basis.

“We started off with 20 people and now we have 200 people,” said sophomore Fame Lerber about the 404 bus route. “There are people sitting three to a seat, sitting in the aisles … I feel like it’s dangerous.” Lerber complained that the bus is too hot and too stuffed – to the point it is difficult to breathe.

Many students are angry at the lack of oversight in regulating who is allowed to ride the bus. One instance saw four students sharing one seat on their ride home.

The number of people riding the 404 regularly outnumbers the amount of seats. The bus’s final stop is in Rainier Beach; yet riders have noted that almost half of the bus clears off at the first stop – Othello – next to the local Safeway.

Most 404 riders blame the overcrowded condition of the bus on students who are not actually assigned to that route and are permitted on the bus despite not having a Green Card. Seattle Public Schools requires that students only ride their assigned bus unless they provide a Green Card written by the office permitting the student on the bus.

“Someone would get on the bus, and they’d go, ‘Oh, my friend can come on.’ So now everyone is bringing on their friends,” explained Lerber, who calls Bus 404 the “Othello Shuttle.”

“What should be happening is that drivers should be doing bus roster checks consistently,” said SoED assistant principal Ray Morales. He is the head of the school’s transportation. “There should be only about 50 students on the bus, but right now it seems like there’s way more than that.”

Morales is working to investigate the issue of overcrowded buses.

“We will step in and regulate the overcrowding … That may include having someone on the bus with a checklist. If overcrowding continues to be a problem and if we need to get another bus then we will do that.”

Students or parents who have concerns about the Bus 404 overcrowding should contact the district’s transportation office at 206-252-0900 or email [email protected]. You will need the student’s ID number and bus route number.

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