Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

America's Great Yellow Buses Other Nations Are Just Assembling Such Student Transportation

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

America's Great Yellow Buses Other Nations Are Just Assembling Such Student Transportation

Article excerpt

Kids in the Pittsburgh area are heading back to school after their summer breaks, many of them riding yellow school buses. Growing up outside Pittsburgh in Beaver County, I rode a yellow school bus every day along Tuscarora Road to Brighton Township Elementary.

One of the things often taken for granted in the United States is the vast network of school buses that take our kids to school day in and day out. In the United States, about 26 million children ride 480,000 school buses every day. It is the largest form of mass transportation in the United States.

But in other parts of the world, the logistics of getting millions of children to and from the right school, on time, safely, relatively quickly and for a reasonable cost is a significant challenge. Yet kids' education, and therefore their futures, depend on school transportation.

Like many places in the Middle East and around the world, Qatar, where I live now, wanted to develop the school transportation system in its capital, Doha. It sought to improve safety, efficiency and quality of service. Qatar wanted its school transportation system to draw from international best practices (such as in the United States) and also meet Qatar's unique circumstances and needs.

In Qatar only about one-third of children travel to and from school in buses, which are typically coach buses designed for tourists and interstate travel. The rest are driven. This means a lot of time and money is lost by parents battling traffic to schools twice every day. It also means more pollution and traffic jams around schools.

In a survey conducted by RAND Corp., the main reasons parents cited for not using the bus were children's preference for a private car, the length of time on the bus, safety concerns and the lack of available bus service in some neighborhoods.

Factors that make school transportation in Qatar different from other places include the heat and too few sidewalks. In the summer, temperatures can rise to over 110 degrees. So buses have to be air- conditioned. Since children cannot stand for long periods in the heat waiting at bus stops, and since many neighborhoods do not have sidewalks or safe places for children to congregate outside, buses often stop at every house. …

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