As readers are aware, Portland’s School Board has given its unanimous support to a proposal authorizing the school district to form a citizen task force and develop an agreement that would allow city buses to transport Portland high school students to and from classes.

The plan, prepared by Gregory Jordan, general manager of the Greater Portland Transit District (which operates the Metro bus service), is apparently the result of meetings between members of the School Board and Metro leadership over the past year. Yet the citizens of Portland have only recently learned of it (and it is interesting to note that it was not mentioned at the high school open houses held just a couple of months ago).

Transportation issues have plagued the district for years. The current policy of denying school bus service to middle school and high school students who live within 2 miles of their school is unrealistic and problematic.

Many readers are aware of the traffic congestion created by parents who have little choice but to drive their children to school. These transportation policies have been prioritized and now determine the school schedules (start and end times).

The Metro proposal does not solve the transportation dilemma – it actually stands to exacerbate traffic.

The proposal is misleading in that it states that students who live within 2 miles of their high school would be able to take advantage of the Metro service under the new system. These students already can use Metro service, but if the proposal is enacted, no new bus lines or stops would be added. If the 2-mile policy is an issue (and I agree that it is), it needs to be re-evaluated districtwide for all schools.


The Metro proposal is flawed, ignoring the students who are currently eligible to be transported on a school bus who do not live reasonably close to a Metro bus stop. The maps presented make it clear that hundreds of such students will face unreasonable commuting conditions, because, given Metro’s limited services, these suburbanites tend to live farther away from bus stops.

Using the Metro website, I calculated our daughter’s commute to Portland High School under the current schedule. She would need to depart by 6:37 a.m. and walk nearly a mile to the Route 3 bus stop at Auburn and Jackson streets.

The distance alone is undesirable, but there are additional challenges: Two of the streets she would have to walk on do not have sidewalks, and there is no nearby crosswalk to safely get to the west side of busy Auburn Street.

Once the bus did arrive, she would face an estimated 35- to 40-minute ride with 33 potential stops. Thankfully, the Elm Street station is very close to Portland High. In the best-case scenario, it would take an hour.

The journey home would take longer (a 30-minute wait after school to take a Route 6 bus and then a 1.1-mile walk from the Washington Avenue stop to home). Her scenario is better than the one many others would face, as the proposal indicates that some Casco Bay and Deering students would have to transfer and take two buses.

I assume that other parents will find this system unacceptable and most will opt to drive their children to school. Those students who are not able to get a ride will face numerous potential safety issues: longer walks to bus stops, boarding buses without flashing red lights and laws requiring nearby traffic to stop, and fellow passengers who are not their peers.


It seems clear that the district requires comprehensive strategic planning to ensure that all Portland Public Schools students have reasonable access to transportation to school.

The proposal’s recommendation to form a task force of stakeholders is appropriate and necessary. However, it is now too late to aim for September implementation. Once formed, the task force needs substantial time to collect additional data.

I urge the district to consider launching a pilot program during the next school year. Find some student volunteers who can test it out. Designate a few weeks or a month during which students can ride for free to see who would take advantage of this service.

At this point, to rush into this program and change the daily school schedule to accommodate it would be irresponsible.

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