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WNYC News

Student Enrollment on the Rise in Newark

Thursday, September 11, 2014

WNYC
After years of declining student enrollment, Newark has seen a significant increase in the number of families attending traditional public schools.

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Schoolbook

School Bus Drivers To Get Salary Boost

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The City Council voted to give bus companies $42 million — which makes some worried about setting a bad precedent.
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Schoolbook

School Bus Company Says it Will Shut Down After Union Rejects Contract

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

One of the city's largest school bus companies is running out of gas. Atlantic Express said its going out of business at the end of the month, after failing to reach a contract agreement with its union. Some 1600 school bus routes in New York City are affected.

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Schoolbook

Travel Program Gives Students Newfound Independence

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

A Department of Education program gives students with disabilities the skills to walk the streets of New York safely and take public transportation on their own. For one high school senior in Queens, the training has meant she can commute to school this year without an adult escort for the first time in her life.

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Transportation Nation

NY School Bus Workers Face Major Pay Cut

Friday, March 22, 2013

Dina Nero on strike in the Bronx (photo by Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

(New York, NY -- Stephen Nessen, Schoolbook/WNYC) New York City school bus workers are expected to have their pay slashed and benefits cut, starting April 15. Both Michael Cordiello, president of the union local representing some of the drivers and aides, and Jeffrey Pollack, a lawyer representing the school bus operators, confirmed the wage cuts. They also said contract talks were suspended.

This follows a tumultuous winter for the school bus industry, which included a month-long strike starting on Jan. 16. Some 8,000 bus drivers and aides walked off the job over the loss of job protections, known as EPPs. Mayor Michael Bloomberg said a court ruling prohibited the city from including the protections in future contracts. And it was followed by an ignominious suspension of the strike when Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union realized it could not convince the Bloomberg administration to step in.

Continue reading the story on Schoolbook.

 

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Transportation Nation

School Bus Workers Face Cold Reality of Strike

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tommy and Dina Nero are school bus workers who have been off their route for weeks because of the strike. (Photo by Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

(Stephen Nessen - New York, SchoolBook) Since January, Tommy and Dina Nero have been a presence at the picket lines nearly every day. A bus driver and matron, as well as husband and wife, the couple has been dedicated to their union’s position in the ongoing school bus strike but, as the dispute drags into it second month, they also are facing the real-life challenges of limited pay and not working at a job they love.

“Those children are our children, as far as I’m concerned,” Tommy Nero said. “The children on my bus now, I’ve known them for the last three and-a-half years. So, the parents know us. It’s like a family, an extended family.”

Buses at a depot in the Bronx (photo by Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

The school bus strike has disrupted more than 5,000 of the 7,700 routes in the five boroughs. The last time this happened, in 1979, the strike lasted 13 weeks. And with all parties firmly entrenched in their positions, this one doesn’t have an end in sight. For the members of 1181 Amalgamated Transit Union, this means reduced wages and the loss of health care benefits.

And every week on strike has heightened the Neros’ anxieties.

There are the impending bills to pay: the mortgage on their Jackson Heights apartment, building fees, car bills, and college tuition for their 24-year-old son who has one more semester left at John Jay College. Also, Tommy needs a steady supply of inhalers for his asthma, a steep cost without health care.

Dina said she hit her head while doing laundry recently and it caused a big concern.

“I was like please, please don’t let me be bleeding, because I can’t afford to get stitches right now. It’s scary, because everything you do, you’re like ‘Oh I can’t get hurt,’ and it’s so on your mind,” she said.

Dina Nero on strike in the Bronx (photo by Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

During a recent visit to their home, Tommy wore his silver hair slicked back. Under his black driver’s jacket he sported a grey sweatshirt emblazoned with “Alaska,” a memento from better times.

“Alaska was our trip of a lifetime. It was our retirement money. We always wanted to go there. Now, from here on end, we don’t know what we’re doing. All our vacations will be on the fire escape,” Tommy said.

Tommy’s grandfather was a union man, working in steel mills in Harlem. Several of his relatives also are school bus drivers and escorts who are on strike now. He said he’s not only concerned about his job, but about the future of unions in the city.

The union says the strike is about ensuring employee protections are put in all new city contracts, protections that would ensure that companies hire union drivers and matrons, and assign routes based on seniority. The city says it’s illegal to keep the protections in the contract.

The strike has been going on since January 16.

Listen to the story here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Transportation Nation

Montana Legislators Want Drivers to Give School Buses More Room

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Rep. "Doc" Moore, the sponsor of HB 155. (Photo by Jackie Yamanaka)

(Helena, MT – YPR) – Montana lawmakers gave preliminary approval to a bill that would increase the distance motorists have to give a school bus when children are getting on and off.

House Bill 155 would amend current Montana law to increase the distance a motor vehicle has to stop from 15  to 30 feet when a school bus puts on its red flashing light.

Representative David “Doc” Moore (R-Missoula) is the bill’s sponsor.

The freshman lawmaker brought toy school buses and handed them out to many state representatives in the 100-member house to try to persuade his colleagues to vote for his first bill.

Rep. Kristin Hansen (R-Havre), chair of the House Education Committee, posing with her toy school bus after the vote. (Photo by Jackie Yamanaka)

Moore said the bill is about safety. “In 2011, nationwide there were 100 fatalities or injuries of school children in school safety zones,” he said. “Sixteen of these fatalities happened when children were getting on or off their buses.”

But not everyone was on board. Representative Jerry O’Neil (R-Columbia Falls) questioned whether the bill was necessary. He asked: where are the statistics that changing Montana law will save a child’s life?

“I think we’re better off to leave it the way it is. It isn’t causing any problems the way it is. I think we’re better off to just vote ‘no’ on this,” he said.

But HB 155 passed the Montana House on an 83-17 vote. It faces a final vote in the House. If it passes, it will go to the Montana Senate for consideration.

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Schoolbook

Mayoral Candidates Walk Fine Line on Bus Strike

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The bus strike presents a challenge in a mayoral election year. Democrats, who are closely aligned with labor, can't afford to look unsympathetic to families whose children are stranded by the strike. Here's a round-up of what the presumed and declared Democratic and Republican candidates are saying.

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Schoolbook

Legal Standoff Over Employee Protections at Heart of Strike

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

As school bus drivers and escorts prepare to strike, we look at what drove the two sides apart. The union claims the city is reneging on a promise to include employee protections in future contracts that guarantee wages and seniority rights. But the city claims a 2011 court ruling nullified those protections.

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Schoolbook

Union Plans School Bus Strike Wednesday Morning

Monday, January 14, 2013

More than 150,000 students face major disruptions to their school commute this week as the union representing many school bus drivers called a strike starting Wednesday morning. The union wants to protect the jobs of experienced bus drivers and matrons when the city seeks new bids on expiring bus contracts.

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Schoolbook

Talk of School Bus Strike Heats Up

Sunday, January 06, 2013

The city continues its efforts to prepare families for a possible bus strike as the drivers' union held a large rally on Sunday. Union leaders say they hope to avoid a job action in favor of negotiated job protection for its experienced bus drivers.

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Schoolbook

Walcott Takes Aim at School Bus Drivers' Union

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott accused the union representing school bus drivers of trying to scare parents, and said the city remains prepared if the union strikes over new bids and the lack of job protection for some bus drivers.

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Schoolbook

City Readies for Possible School Bus Strike

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mayor Bloomberg is warning students and parents to prepare for a possible school bus strike as soon as January 2nd.

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Transportation Nation

Washington Governor Proposes New Fuel Tax For Education

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

(photo by Larry Darling via flickr)

(Derek Wang - Seattle, KUOW) Washington Governor Chris Gregoire is proposing a new wholesale vehicle fuel tax to help cover the costs of getting kids to school.

Currently, school districts help pay for students' transportation needs, but a recent court ruling says state government is not doing enough to support education. That includes education-related transportation.

Gregoire’s solution? A new tax on refineries to basically pay for school bus costs. Her plan was included in her 2013-2015 budget proposal, which is required under state law. Gregoire said her fuel-tax proposal is directed at oil producers, not consumers.

"Let’s be clear," she says, "the five top oil companies in America, in the first six months of this year, had over $60 billion in profits. So I expect them to do this without passing this on to consumers."

[Also at KUOW: Not Easy To Find Room For Ocean Energy]

Gregoire’s proposal would cost fuel wholesalers about 5 cents a gallon in the first year, 8 cents a gallon by 2015 and 12 cents a gallon in 2017.

State Senator Andy Hill is the likely chairman of the Senate budget committee. He opposes the plan and predicts that the new fuel tax would get passed down to consumers. “That really hurts the middle class as they fill up their tanks," explains Hill. "I think when you ask the average voter, when you ask about transportation, they think about roads, bridges, tunnels, ferries. They don’t think about school buses.”

Fellow Republicans say the state doesn’t need to raise taxes to pay for education.

[Also at KUOW: Another Dock Washes Ashore In Wash., Possibly From Japanese Tsunami]

Gregoire’s plan would need to be approved by two-thirds of the Legislature and Governor-elect Jay Inslee. A spokesman for Inslee wouldn’t say whether the incoming governor supports Gregoire’s plan. The spokesman said Inslee will lay out his own budget plan during the upcoming legislative session.

Follow Derek Wang on Twitter.

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Transportation Nation

Arlington Schools Not Backing Down On New Busing Rules

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

(image by Adam Fagen via flickr)

(Patrick Madden - Washington, DC, WAMU) Hundreds of parents in Virginia's Arlington County are appealing a new policy that will likely force more than 1,000 children who used to take the bus to school to walk instead this year.

Arlington schools plan to strictly enforce a walking zone for students, reports the Washington Post. That means elementary students living within a mile of school and secondary students within 1.5 miles of school aren't eligible for busing.

When the school system spelled out plans in August, many parents were angry, and 200 of them filed appeals. But only a few of those appeals have been successful, an ACPS spokeswoman told the Post. Donna Owens, the mother of a sixth grader, told the newspaper that many children will have to cross busy roads to get to school.

School officials argue they're addressing growing enrollment, because the bus system was reaching a crisis. There are an additional 1,000 students enrolled in the county's schools this year, according to Superintendent Patrick Murphy.

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Transportation Nation

Houston School Bus Drivers Appeal for Help in Dealing with Rowdy Students

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Houston school bus drivers appeal to officials to enforce discipline policies. Photo by Gail Delaughter/KUHF

(Houston, TX -- Gail Delaughter, KUHF)  Houston public school bus driver Wretha Thomas says she's just about seen it all.

"We have kids that are jumping out of the back of the school bus while buses are moving. We have kids that come on the bus every day smoking marijuana. We have kids on our buses every week fighting."

On a warm spring morning, Thomas gathered with fellow bus drivers in front of the Houston Independent School District (HISD) headquarters to appeal for help in dealing with rowdy students. She's president of the Houston Educational Support Personnel Union, which represents bus drivers, teachers' aides, and other school workers in the state's largest school district. Members chanted, "Stop the bullying on the bus, we demand respect." They carried signs reading "Enough is Enough."

One by one, drivers told their stories. John Sears says he's seen his share of fights and drug use, and he also recalled one incident in which someone shot at a bus. Sears says they have to safely transport kids to school every day but he feels they get no support.

"We could write a kid up for disciplinary problems and there's nothing done about it."

Driver Velma Allen described an incident on her bus that she believes involved drugs:

"Kid got on the bus just fine, all of a sudden he's sluggish talking. I mean, if I hadn't been there and it had been a sub driver that kid could have died because I had to call the ambulance to come get him."

According to its website, HISD operates about 1,000 buses that transport about 40,000 students daily. The district's bus fleet travels about 80,000 miles a day. That's about 18 million miles a year. Each bus has at least two video cameras to record incidents. But driver Lizzie Revels says that doesn't deter some students.

"You know, as we travel down the road, they're throwing up gang signs, and people call in and say they're throwing up gang signs, or they're raising the window down and hollering at people."

HISD spokesman Jason Spencer says he understands why drivers are frustrated. "As any parent or teacher can tell you, maintaining order on a school bus, or any group of children, that's a hard job," he said.

But Spencer disputes drivers' claims that the district isn't following through in disciplining kids who misbehave. He says transportation supervisors have 24 hours to review bus surveillance videos after getting complaints from drivers. Incidents are then reported to schools and possibly HISD police.

One of the drivers' demands is that the district clarify what punishment a student will receive for acting up on a bus. Spencer says officials have agreed to take another look at the Code of Student Conduct to "determine if we need more stringent language in there, particularly when it comes to addressing the times when it's appropriate to remove a child from a school bus."

HISD has a team of bus safety monitors that can ride along with drivers who are having problems. But officials say budget constraints prevent them from placing a monitor on every bus. Drivers meanwhile are appealing to parents, churches, and community groups to help them keep the buses safe.

 

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Cuomo May Tap Pension Funds to Finance Tappan Zee, What The New Fuel Economy Standards Mean for You, and More on the "Low Line"

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top stories on TN:

DOT head Ray LaHood hopes to transportation doesn't get cut in the wake of the supercommittee failure. (Link)

Connecticut is getting inter-city bus BRT. (Link)

NY builds its first 'slow zone' to combat speeding. (Link)

Rendering of the Low Line (image courtesy of Delancey Underground)

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo may use private and public pension funds to help finance the Tappan Zee Bridge overhaul. (Wall Street Journal)

Maryland's latest toll road could be its last for a generation, given how much the state had to borrow to build it. (Washington Post)

Senator Schumer is backing lower tolls for Staten Islanders. (Staten Island Advance)

NYC school bus drivers: not striking yet. (WNYC)

Editorial: the list of projects on Atlanta's upcoming transit referendum is a necessity, not a choice. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

What the new fuel economy standards will mean to you. (KQED Climate Watch)

Korean auto manufacturers are ramping up U.S. lobbying. (Politico)

Volkswagen's new concept delivery van has "semi-autonomous capabilities." (Gizmag)

An abandoned trolley terminal under NYC's Delancey Street could become the 'Low Line' -- an underground park. (New York Times)

Mobile, Alabama, gets its first bike racks. (Press-Register)

Obesity is a major problem for America's truck drivers. (New York Times)

Who's buying hybrids? Looks like people on the West Coast. (NPR)

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Transportation Nation

NYC School Bus Strike Looms

Friday, November 18, 2011

(photo by Ben Walker via Flickr)

(New York, NY -- WNYC Newsroom)  Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned of an "immediate strike" by the city's school bus drivers that could  impact 152,000 students.

"If and when a strike should happen we're going to do everything possible to help parents who rely on school buses to get their children to school safely," Mayor Michael Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg said the MTA is ready to issue students round-trip MetroCards for each day of the potential strike and parents can request them to accompany young or special needs students to and from school.

It was unclear when or if the union would strike.

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the Department of Education has prepared "for the worst," and alerted parents in an email Friday that they should prepare for a "strong possibility of an immediate system-wide strike."

"The union's threat to strike and leave 152,000 students and their families in the lurch is nothing short of shameful," Walcott said.

The strike threat by drivers with Local 11-81 came as a response to the Department of Education's bid for new yellow bus contracts.

The union wants the bid to include a measure that guarantees workers their seniority rights if their current employers do not win the new bid.

The DOE called the potential strike illegal. The union has not responded for comment.

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WNYC News

Possible School Bus Strike Looms

Friday, November 18, 2011

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the Department of Education has prepared "for the worst," and alerted parents in an email Friday that they should prepare for a "strong possibility of an immediate system-wide strike."

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Transportation Nation

TN MOVING STORIES: Racial Profiling At Newark Liberty Airport -- Digital Displays Coming to More NYC Subway Cars

Friday, June 17, 2011

Newark Airport (photo by Masck/Flickr)

Racial profiling apparently became common practice at Newark Airport, and now lawmakers want to know why. (Star-Ledger)

The NYC MTA says East Side Select Bus Service increased ridership by 30%. (DNA Info)

Budget woes and high gas prices are causing Illinois to cut back school bus service. (Chicago Tribune)

New York may bring automated station announcements and digital displays to 1,700 more subway cars. (New York Times)

Toyota says full vehicle production will return to North America in September -- faster than expected. (Bloomberg)

Women in Saudi Arabia are agitating for the right to drive. (The Takeaway)

A New York Daily News op-ed says that NYC DOT commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan killed a City Council plan to put livery cab stands in outer boroughs.

Parking a pickup truck overnight in Coral Gables, Florida -- even in a driveway -- could cost residents a $100 ticket. (USA Today)

Taxi data could be mined to solve public transit problems. (The Urbanophile)

Plans for a High Line-style park are moving ahead in Chicago. (Red Eye Chicago)

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