CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Public Schools is asking the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority for its money back, saying $2.5 million worth of bus passes have gone unused after the elimination of Metro's XTRA routes.
The district said about half of the students who took Metro to school last year are not taking it this year, and those who do take Metro are often showing up late.
Phoenix, a junior at Walnut Hills High School, said it is taking him about three times as long to get home from school every day since the XTRA routes were eliminated.
"There used to be only one bus that ran to each neighborhood — catch the bus at a certain time every single morning," Phoenix said. "Last year I could take one bus straight to home. It was 15-20 minutes tops. Now, it's an hour to get home. It takes two buses."
His mother, Lora Jost, said many Walnut families are now carpooling because of the bus struggles.
"It stresses us both out," Jost said. "When the buses do show up, it's a cluster mess because there's more cars in the way of the buses trying to do it. The buses are making it more difficult for the drivers, the drivers are making it more difficult for the bus riders."
During a CPS board meeting, the district surveyed principals, finding "the current state isn't good." Parent complaints are up nearly 75%, while 82% of principals said they are seeing worse times than last year.
"It seems as though we haven't received from SORTA specific data requests that we've received in the past," board member Ben Lindy said. "Specifically, we haven't received comparative ridership data to understand how different the student experience is compared to last year's."
In response to the survey Metro said was completed without their knowledge, Metro said they were transparent in communicating changes to the XTRA routes — and noted conditions would have been worse if the XTRA routes had been maintained due to an ongoing bus operators shortage.
Metro said the service provided, while not without challenges, is working "reasonably well," though some parents say otherwise.
CPS said it will be requesting $2.5 million of its $4.5 million contract back due to the unused passes. Metro said it will send annual data to the Board of Education, and early indicators suggest CPS student ridership is approaching 9,000 trips per day — nearly pre-pandemic levels.