CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Public Schools officials are set to meet with the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) Tuesday afternoon to discuss a number of changes to CPS student bus routes, less than two weeks before the district is slated to return to school.
CPS hopes to reverse the decision to get rid of Metro XTRA routes, which have been in place for four decades, in return for regularly scheduled routes; with XTRA routes, students in grades seven through 12 had a more direct route to their school building.
"Our situation, the bus was picking up and dropping off on our street," said Lora Jost, a parent of a Walnut Hills student. "It made me feel much safer."
Under the new plan, to get to a stop with a regularly scheduled route, her child would have to climb 167 stairs and then cross six lanes of Reading Road traffic during rush hour.
"We signed up for Walnut under the belief that safe transportation would be offered that makes sense," said Jost. "That doesn't make sense. It's not safe."
Jost said others who rely on Metro for regular transportation will certainly notice a change when suddenly hundreds of CPS students are flooding the regular lines each day.
"Every other human that's riding those city routes is going to be affected," she said. "Because all the sudden instead of 20-25 stops from home to work, they'll now be picking up hundreds of kids along the way. It's going to inconvenience everyone riding Metro."
Tianay Amat, the CPS interim superintendent, wrote a letter addressing some of the district's issues with the proposed route changes and sent it to city hall and Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac to advocate for change.
In it, Amat wrote about issues with regard to safety for students, dismissal times, overcrowding, transfers and all-access passes. The district is concerned about mass numbers of students at city-wide and neighborhood transportation hubs before and after school, she wrote.
"I'm in full support of however you're going to fight this," said Julie Sellers, president of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers. "I'll be there with you, however you go about this."
While CPS board members plan to meet with SORTA's board Tuesday afternoon, the transportation agency has explained in past meetings that it would take months to reconfigure the route layout to revert to XTRA routes for students.
As the school year rapidly approaches, parents like Jost are feeling stressed about the uncertainty surrounding where routes for students will be.
"Creating more stability and structure for the kids is important," she said. "Messing up the bus system weeks before is creating more unnecessary anguish for these kids."