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APS Transportation Director Suddenly Retires

by ARLnow.com August 8, 2012 at 4:32 pm 5,999 167 Comments

The Arlington Public Schools Transportation Director has retired, just weeks before APS will go back in session with a new, recently-announced voucher-based busing system.

Transportation Director Gregory Sutton’s last day on the job was yesterday, Aug. 7, Assistant Superintendent Linda Erdos confirmed to ARLnow.com today. Erdos would not say whether Sutton’s retirement was announced in advance or whether it was an unexpected resignation. She did say, however, that the process to replace him will not begin until later this year.

“We do not share the private reasons that employees share when they notify us of their decisions,” Erdos said. “We have an interim team of transportation managers who will lead Transportation while we begin our personnel process to fill the position later this year.”

Sept. 4 is the first day of school in Arlington, and this school year students who take the bus will be required to present a voucher in order to board an APS school bus. The move to a voucher-based system — announced in two separate letters to parents — follows the release of a report last fall that concluded Arlington’s school bus system was under “a great strain” and reaching a “breaking point” systemwide.

The report recommended a reorganization of management and administrative staffing at the school system’s Transportation Services department, among other steps.

Flickr pool photo by Afagen

  • Chris B

    Nice scoop, ARLNow!

    Curious what happened.

    • Pattib

      And what happened to the Gifted/Talented and Science Directors? Is there housecleaning underway?

  • South Awwlington

    Sounds like he was forced to resign or be term’d.

    • Josh S

      Why?

  • Surprise, surprise, surprise

    Ironic. Maybe he decided he didn’t want to be part of the aftermath that will come when APS finally fesses up and informs parents of how many bus routes they are eliminating to save a few bucks. Based on information on his Linked In page, he is likely close to retirement age.

    If I were in his shoes, I’d be heading for the hills too, before the crap hits the fan. I’m thinking he probably was not excited about this latest “study” from Dr. Murphy’s bag of tricks.

    It would be nice if APS were simply open and honest in their communications. Learning cottage is a code word for trailers. Increasing the efficiency and capacity utilization and making buses less crowded is a code term for eliminating a number of bus stops and even entire routes.

    It’s quite bothersome that APS thinks the parents of all of the bright kids that populate their schools are so naive as to fall for their creative language. Tell the truth and face the fallout. Don’t wait til the last second then lob a grenade and run and hide.

  • Aps worker

    This has been in the works for a while… I heard that this was coming last fall.

  • Ahhh, here it is in print

    Priority recommendation 3 from “THE REPORT”

    Restructure current bus routes to reduce the number of buses in service.
    Transportation’s operational infrastructure is at capacity. Recent additions to the bus fleet in the name of service delivery are starting to push the system to the breaking point. Opportunities exist to utilize technology and a new routing philosophy to reduce the number of buses required, relieving pressure on the system and controlling costs in such a way that a window of time is opened for
    implementing the balance of the action plan.

  • Noisecomplaint

    Mr. Sutton wanted no part of the new bus program because it is going to mean a cut to services. He has made his opinion clear in many of the staff meetings with the rest of the APS upper management. What Surprise said is correct, instead of APS coming out directly and acknowledging the route cuts they continue to use creative language to avoid facing the simple truth. Mr. Sutton is a good man who is loyal and fair to his employees…another victim of the Arlington Way.

    • Ralph

      Ah that’s right, the new plans where kids need to WALK up to 1,5 miles… gasp!

      • tom smart

        Ralph, I suspect you either don’t have kids or you don’t have any concern about them crossing the very busy streets where drivers have no concern for the speed limit or the pedestrians, adult pedestrians I might add. And to think about allowing “small” kids to walk to school crossing these same busy streets is an accident waiting to happen. As much as the thought kills me to say or think, I would be willing to bet that a kid gets hit this year by one of these drivers who is in hurry to get somewhere, regardless of the speed limit signs, etc. Not all kids have the same mature capabilities that you might assume they do, nor adults, as there have been adult pedestrians who were on bike of foot who were involved in accidents all to recently, both killed as well as injured.

        • Ralph

          Tom, no argument there: I wouldn’t want children to walk by themselves through (most parts of) Arlington. But a parent can walk with them.

          • tom smart

            Ralph, I don’t think you really understand the issue at all. You are just one of those people who like to make smart ass comments without giving much thought to what you are saying. Why don’t you take your light hearted ill thought comments to late night tv or the comedy circuit to see how long you last. Your assumptions about parents and children are asinine. And I really don’t know why I’m wasting my time answering them. See you on late night tv…NOT.

          • Ralph

            It is asinine to assume parents can walk their kids to school? If the distance is 1.5 miles or less?

          • drax

            You don’t have kids, do you Ralph?

          • Parent

            Could be. You have a 10-15 minute drop off window. Then there’s weather. And traffic. And lots of 2 working parent households.

          • Wish Ralph was my boss

            Gee whiz, Ralph. I wish I had a boss as flexible as you. My kindergartener starts at 9am, so with the 20-25 minute walk back to my house, and 20-25 minute drive back to the office, sweet- I arrive between 9:45-10:00.

            Thank goodness I’ve got a great boss like Ralph who is so understanding and doesn’t care if I only work 6 hours a day!

          • drax

            A parent in a household with two working parents can walk their kids to school? You’re just digging the hole deeper. Plenty of parents can barely find time to get their kids to the bus stop on time.

          • observer

            having kids is not compulsary y’know….not yet anyway

          • DCBuff

            someone more asine than Ralph! way to go.

          • The Bible

            Psalm 137:9 (KJV)

          • Anyone but Pat

            Get used to being unimpressed with the leadership at the top. Murphy has proven himself ineffective– particularly at communication. You always need to read between the lines when reading anything he writes. The spin is so intense it makes me dizzy.

          • Melissa

            Amen!

      • Mitt Romney

        Can’t they take one of the Cadillacs?

      • Josh S

        Is the 1.5 mile boundary new? What did it used to be?

        • Anon

          It’s not new. Parents apparently just don’t like the fact that the boundary will now be enforced. Boo-hoo. And, for the record, I have 2 kids in APS schools. Depending on the school they’ve attended, some years they’ve been in-boundary, some years outside the boundary.

          • DCBuff

            Note that the boundry has differed for the school type (ie, elementary, middle, high).

  • tom smart

    We are parents of a W&L student who last year was considered to be within the 1.5 mile radius, pursuant to APS policy. However this year, a bus ride was not going to be made available due to the new software system that was being utilized to measure the distance of a student’s home to the school. And this is how the measurement is made for those of you who are not familiar with the specifics. The school is now measuring from the student’s home to the nearest property line of the school itself. In our case, the nearest W&L property line is the physical corner of Washington Blvd and N. Quincy St. Yes, you understood me correctly. My only question/comment is why wasn’t the 1.5 mile measurement made to the location of where the buses actually drop the students at school? In our case, Mr. Sutton admitted to me that it would have met the 1.5 mile radius. And even though he was very apologetic, he added that the methodology being used by APS this year conforms to what schools across the country are and have been adopting to justify their bus schedules to their communities. At that, I asked him if APS is really short of cash, why not offer those families who wish to use the school bus, the opportunity to pay? Although he said the idea had never risen before, he suggested that I make the recommendation to the School Board. So if there’s anyone out there willing to take the lead, I’m behind it.

    • Ralph

      So, you’ll have to walk another 100 yards?

      • tom smart

        You obviously don’t get it. It has nothing to do with walking 1.5 miles or walking another 100 yds.

        • NoVapologist

          If your child is in high school and can’t get him/herself to school, you’ve got bigger problems than county budget cuts.

          • CW

            While Ralph is being somewhat of a jerk, I tend to agree with this.

    • Frustrated Bus Mom

      According to page 6 of the transportation efficiency study, the average cost per student is $1,338.27, which includes transporting those with special needs.

      Route Buses 112
      Daily Bus Runs 606
      Avg. Students Transported 7,837
      Cost per Student $1,338.27
      Cost per Bus $94,480.57
      Daily per Bus $524.89
      Daily per Run $96.14

      • Wish Ralph was my boss

        Hmmm. $1338 vs. the cost of morning extended day and the cost/hassle of drop off. Where do I write the check?

      • Josh S

        Is that per year?

        In any case, somehow I think that allowing families within 1.5 miles (of a secondary school) to pay to ride the bus would not be as simple as just charging $1338 dollars. Because the timing would be thrown off, the routes would have to be readjusted depending on who is electing to pay each year, and if the bus is already full, it’s already full. The marginal cost to add another *bus* appears to be $94K – so it is that number that would likely have to be shared by those families within the boundary to use the bus. I doubt you can find 94 families within the 1.5 radius who would elect to pay, so the cost would quite likely be a lot higher. Not gonna happen.

        • Frustrated Bus Mom

          Yes, it is per year. But remember if the system were more efficient, they could cut down on all that gas and overtime, etc.

    • Josh S

      Do you mean last year you were *outside* the 1.5 miles? And so were able to use the bus?

    • Melissa

      Are they measuring as the crow flies? Or the actual walk route? I know people who have been told they will walk who live 1.8+ miles plus away from their school according to possible walking routes in Google maps.

  • Kony Thornheiser

    We should build a Metro/Trolley stop at every school and that would get rid of the bus problem altogether.

    • tom smart

      although i sense your frustration with arlington county government’s ridiculous spending, i.e. the trolley, i’m not quite sure what that has to do with this article. are you suggesting that school buses are not needed? required? should be offerred?

  • Undereducated

    The quick clean solution is for the School System to get out of the transportation business. Explain to me again why the government has any responsibility for transporting students to and from school. Accept some personal responsibility people.

    • drax

      Why does the government have any responsibility for educating kids at all? Does it?

    • Ralph

      +1

      • Parent

        I hope when you grow up and have kids, you have the luxury of being able to walk them to school, drop them off between 8:35 and 8:45 (or pay for early extended day) and still make it to work on time.

        • tom smart

          are these lame brains even worth responding to? i think they are people who have no lives and just love to say silly pea brain things because it makes them feel like they are worth something. most of the comments fall into that category.

          • Fellow Parent

            I think you hit the nail on the head, tom smart. They are not worth it.

    • Alan

      Yes, I agree with Undereducated, government buses are pretty evil. They should all walk. Quit relying on the government to get you places people! Next thing you know the government will be asked to keep roads in order and maintain sewer systems. Its all down hill to a socialist state from there. Walk I tell you, walk!

    • Josh S

      What’s this talk about responsibility? Who said the government was *responsible* for doing this? It’s not the way to frame the issue.

      Your “solution” would A) not solve the problem of getting kids to school, B) be enormously unpopular, far more unpopular than any other solution proposed/discussed, C) likely be less safe and certainly result in greater automobile congestion, D) would likely result in far greater absenteeism, E) if it’s tax savings you’re after, would hardly change anyone’s total tax bill, F) is mean spirited, G) would probably lead to some families choosing to live elsewhere

      Do you even stop to think before you type?

      • CW

        Let’s contract bus service out to Washington Flyer and Red Top! Yeah! Yeah!

  • Arlington Mom

    Because the schools aren’t designed to handle drop-off and pick-up any other way. Imagine the traffic impact that would occur morning and afternoon if families were individually responsible for transport, or the administrative procedure necessary to match each kid with their ride at the end of the day. School buses are a form of public transit, and are actually pretty efficient.

    Seems like the old policy was doing an ok job – no bus stops in the walk-zones, but feel free to catch a bus from any other stop you want to walk to. At least tht gives those on the border/with smaller kids a fair option.

    Maybe all that’s needed is a system where families have to declare their plans before the beginning of the year so the APS Transit folks can optimize routes, as opposed to APS making assumptions and issuing vouchers based strictly on address. Many kids who will be issued vouchers have no intention of riding the bus, and some without vouchers need to.

    • MommyDearest

      Arlington Mom: you should run for the School Board. Actually TALK to parents and ask them their intentions? Brilliant platform. It’s my biggest beef with APS. They either don’t engage parents at all, or they engage them too late. Honestly, our schools are bursting at the seems. With enrollment increasing each year, I highly doubt that removing the very small percentage of “walk zone offenders” is going to make a dent in their bus riders.

      • Wish Ralph was my boss

        It’s not just the “walk zone offenders”. They’re eliminating entire bus routes that have been around for years.

        Luckily APS is going to give you a whole week and a half notice, so you and 2000 of your closest friends can figure out how to rework their morning commutes to include a dropoff at the local schools.

        I know the dropoff at our school is already a complete cluster, I can only imagine what it’ll be with 100 more cars dropping off. Maybe if we gridlock every school in the county and truancy starts spiking because kids are stuck in miles-long kiss and drop lines, the good Dr. Murphy will get his head out of his posterior and recognize that his brilliant cost-saving solution is worse than the symptoms.

    • Josh S

      Hmmmm. Are the vouchers transferrable? In which case, perhaps a healthy secondary market will develop and APS can use the total number of vouchers in existence to manage the total bus seats they need systemwide.

      • Lee-n-Glebe

        I’m curious as to how exactly this will work. Do they need a voucher only on day 1? Or every day? I suspect that after nearly every single Elementary School kid loses their voucher for the 4th or 5th time that the rules will relax a little.

      • 1984

        Thought about this. Next thing is that they’ll make the elementary school kids get photo IDs to ensure they haven’t transferred the vouchers. In our case, it won’t matter, they just eliminated the entire route.

        • Waldo

          Hah, your screen name and this topic just made me laugh.

  • arlparent

    If the goal is to save money, HOW MUCH MONEY will they save?

    At the School Board meeting, Sally Baird asked about that and no direct, quantitative answer was given. The answer was more along the line of – we believe it will save money.

    I hope the School Board holds Dr Murphy accountable to give a report on the exact amount of money saved. He’s supposed to be a “data person” – he has a responsibility to taxpayers to answer that question.

  • grace

    We live on the edge of 1.5 mile but we have no sidewalks for the children to walk on. We have organized walking school bus trips but most families are too busy to walk or too worried about the lack of sidewalks and the terror of crossing a busy road with no stop signs or lights. I’d happily encourage walking if there was a safe route to school.
    I return to my previous observation…what is happening to the choice schools and those bus routes???

    • Kony Thornheiser

      Seems like Donaldson Run is trying to force everyone to homeschool with bobjones/abeka books.

      • observer

        are there no ferries?

        • Richard Cranium

          I vote for Fan Boats – Swamp Style!!!

    • MommyDearest

      I have one child at Spanish Immersion. We got the same letter for her as we did for our other two. The same rules apply (except, of course, that more of the kids are obviously outside the walk zone).

    • Choices are EXpensive

      Um, nothing. The choice school kids still get bussed if there outside of the 1 mile radius. The choice school kids are “chosen” after all.

      • grace

        That irks me.

      • Lee-n-Glebe

        Yes – chosen by a random lottery. What’s your point?

        • Elmer

          Simple: I’m not “grace” but my point would be that if your neighborhood school is not good enough for your kid(s) and you want a “choice” school, get out your pocketbook and write your check for tuition to any private school of your choice.

    • Josh S

      Not to change the subject – work with your neighborhood association to get funding for sidewalks to be added to your neighborhood via the Safe Routes to School program.

      • Wesley

        Here’s a thought, maybe the county can identify unsafe routes to its schools on its own. They certainly have no trouble identifying cars without current county stickers in all corners of the county. Or finding what roads need bike lanes or curb bulbs, medians, 4-way stops or traffic circles.

        It’s the smallest county in the country. How hard is it to get out there and actually look around?

        • 1984

          I’m sure many of use parents would be happy to help ID the “unsafe” routes. I already spoke to the transportation department about 3 commuter cutthrough streets that my little ones will have to negotiate. (I’ll make sure they wear running shoes, so they can beat it across before the MD driver doing 40mph down a residential street whacks them)

      • grace

        Hahahah! Have YOU tried to get to that done in your neighborhood. I volunteered to chair a project – strongly supported but the neighborhood and opposed by just enough property owners to shoot it down. Which property owners opposed…uh huh. The elderly, people who sent their kids to school in the years before cell phone drivers, people who don’t actually walk the street, people who feel that complying with the ADA shouldn’t apply to this enormously wide street. I was skewered, lambasted and roasted by a few, lied about, insulted. This has happened to others. The NCAC process is the most divisive process invented!

  • Hmmm

    Check out the other change in Instruction… want the inside scoop on that change up… after the first pick was introduced to everyone.

  • Thes

    I rode a bus to school most years and never walked, so with the following comment I’m not meaning to throw stones.

    In terms of keeping your kids safe and healthy, is it possible that on average the risk of kids from crossing the streets on their walk to school is outweighed by the risk of obesity from today’s sedentary lifestyle? I’m asking this as a serious question. The data must be out there to say which one takes more years off your child’s life in the aggregate. As a parent, how do you weigh the small risk of a car crash at age 10 with a huge risk of a heart attack age 60 or diabetes at age 35?

    • Duder3

      I too grew up basically without school buses–walking to elementary and being driven to junior high and HS by a parent.

      HOWEVER:

      Remember Jaycee Dugard, the girl kidnapped from the bus stop *in front of her parents* (!!) and held for years by those sicko creeps? If they can take a girl from right in front of her parents, then no way would I ever let my kid walk to school.

      Evidently the world is less safe than when we were kids–or maybe it was always less safe, and we were just lucky.

      • Josh S

        Wait, what?!?

        ONE time, in a completely different state, many years ago, ONE girl was kidnapped and this is what you base your decisions on?

        You must never get on an airplane.
        Or a train.
        Or in a car.
        Or leave the house.

        • CW

          Yeah dude, they climbin in your windows and snatchin your people up. Hide your kids.

        • Duder3

          Josh S., there are abductions all the time. Just not as well publicized, because they don’t keep the kids for years in their backyards. And add to that the number of other pervy incidents–and yeah, it’s something that gives you pause.

          You’ve presented a false choice: Obviously, one has to leave the house and take forms of transportation. But one does not have to make their kid take the bus. You can’t eliminate all risk, but you can minimize it where possible.

          • Josh S

            I don’t actually want to question your personal decisions. As a parent myself, I’m sure I’ve made decisions about my child’s safety / well-being that others would question.

            But your raising the Jaycee Dugard kidnapping just brings up what to me is a strange change in community psychology over the years. The Lindberg baby kidnapping probably got just as much if not more publicity than the Dugard case did but somehow parents didn’t bring their kids indoors. The Patty Hearst kidnapping was also a big deal (especially in California), but parents didn’t bring their kids indoors then, either (yeah, she was an adult). In general, parents seem to be more hyper-sensitive to perceived threats to their kids these days. I think it borders on an irrational response. (Not getting your kids vaccinated because of fears of autism is another example.) Nearly every parent I know admits that they had more freedom/responsibility when they were a kid. Yet they still make the choice to shelter their kid. Why?

          • NoVapologist

            Both the Lindbergh baby and Patty Hearst were abducted indoors. Just sayin’.

          • Aaron

            Quick, run outside before you or your baby are kidnapped! Abject terror! Panic!!

          • JohnB

            The U.S. Department of Justice reports

            Nearly 800,000 children younger than 18 are missing each year, or an average of 2,185 children reported missing each day.
            More than 200,000 children were were abducted by family members.
            More than 58,000 children were abducted by nonfamily members.
            115 children were the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping. These crimes involve someone the child does not know or a slight acquaintance who holds the child overnight, transports the child 50 miles or more, kills the child, demands ransom, or intends to keep the child permanently.

            http://www.missingkids.com/missingkids/servlet/PageServlet?LanguageCountry=en_US&PageId=2810

            Out of a population of 73,847,284 that is about 1 in a hundred. This risk can be significantly reduced by making sure you and your family don’t abduct your own children.

            (Population statistics derived from US Census Data)

          • Josh S

            I’m guessing the 73 million is total US population under 18?

            “reported missing” of course does not mean abducted / kidnapped. Your numbers appear to leave out about 550,000 cases, which I’m guessing turned out to be nothing more than the kid forgetting to call home after going over to a friends home after school, kid moves to new town and gets lost on way home first day of school, kid “runs away” from home but was really hiding in the backyard the whole time, (all of which happened to me or people I know), etc, etc.

            If the 115 kids “actually” kidnapped is the real number, it appears that the risk is 1 in 630,000, give or take. The odds you will be struck by lightning in any one year is about 1 in a million.

          • Duh….

            And thus, I generally don’t let my kids go out and play if there is lightning in the area.

      • Josh S

        And also –

        Just the other day, someone else on another thread pointed out that violent crimes in Arlington are actually way DOWN now compared to thirty years ago.

        (Which makes sense considering how affluent Arlington has become….)

        • Duder3

          Number of crimes per person has gone down, but number of crimes committed per square mile has gone up. That’s the important stat.

          In 1970, there were fewer people living in the County. So yes, when there was a murder, it counted for more in terms of the crime rate. Nowadays, there are far more residents per square mile, and the number of crimes has gone up. Your likelihood of being a victim is based on the geographic area (the space where crime could occur), not the number of residents. Thus the likelihood of being a victim has in fact increased, despite the increase in population.

          • Josh S

            I’m not sure that’s true. I think likelihood of being a victim would still be more closely tied to crimes per person. If the population of the square mile in question goes up faster than the number of crimes committed, then your likelihood of being a victim goes down. An extreme example makes the case – if the population of the square mile goes up by 100,000 in a year, but the crimes in that square mile only goes up by 100, then the crimes per square mile may increase but the crimes per person goes down.

            In any case, I thought that the stat quoted was total crimes, not per person. Also, it was comparing crime from about 1985, not 1970, which was forty+ years ago.

            All things taken into account, I’m fairly sure Arlington is a safer place than it was thirty years ago.

          • Pike

            Were you here 30 years ago? It wasn’t Gotham City around here, there was very little crime in fact.

          • Josh S

            No, but that sort of reinforces the point I’m trying to make. Arlington, despite ARLNow’s efforts to convince us otherwise, is not a crime-ridden place. Very little crime then. Very little crime now.

          • Duder3

            Crime per capita only reflects your odds of being victimized *as opposed to someone else*. So yes, now that there are more people, the odds of you being a victim *versus someone other than you* are lower. However, the odds of your being victimized at a given geographic point versus not being victimized at all are higher, because the number of incidents of crime near that point is higher than it was then.

            (Obviously, the geographic point in question has a lot to do with it; a spot near the Metro is going to see a lot more crime than a spot in a purely residential area, reachable only by car. Part of that is that there are more people and thus more potential victims near the Metro, and part is that transit, by bringing in vast numbers of people to a given area, natrually includes some potential criminals in that number, along with any other category of people.)

            If you ask someone who has been here for 20+years, and you will hear that the general sense of safety was higher then.

          • Josh S

            Again, you’re reinforcing my point.

            Yes, I understand that the general *sense* of safety was higher then. What I’m saying is that, statistically speaking, we’re actually safer *now*. Somehow people don’t get that.

          • Duder3

            Josh, you seem to have skipped over the first two paragraphs of my previous post; we were safer then.

            Which person has lower odds of being a victim of crime: The person in small-town North Dakota, where one murder in a year in a small population would result in a high crime rate per capita, or in Manhattan, where the large number of people results in a low per capita crime rate, but a greater number of crimes per square mile?

          • Josh S

            I’m begining to wonder if you understand statistics.

            The answer is clearly Manhattan.

          • Duder3

            You’ve got to be kidding. You think that if a town or 500 in ND has one murder, resulting in a high per-capita crime rate for that year, then everyone spread out over the whole town is at higher risk than people living in a place with 1000s of people but where there are hundreds of crimes per square mile? Think about that for 5 minutes.

            Crime risk is best measured by incidents per square mile, not per capita.

          • Unbeeweebable

            Sorry to burst your bubble. I definitely feel safer now than I did 20 years ago. In the same neighborhood. The increase in density has resulted in a lot more eyes and ears out and about. Lotsa potential witnesses and potential good Samaritans if something bad should happen.

            In fact, 20 years ago, it was downright creepy to walk from Metro to home in Ballston after dark. Not 10 or 11 at night, just after dark. Now, not so much.

            However, some of the denizens of the sidewalks around the Ballston Metro escalators leave a great deal to be desired. No, I’m not talking about those people waiting for their buses.

          • Novanglus

            The crime rate is way down nationwide, not just in Arlington. According to the book “Freakanomics,” we can thank Roe v Wade for that.

        • Eric

          Since you seem to have the statistics right at your fingertips, what is the most number of homicides in Arlington in a single year?

        • Math

          I believe homicides are up substantially in Arlington 2012 v 2011, so not sure if you’re looking at the latest data.

          • Josh S

            I’ll go out on a limb and predict 2012 ends up being an anomoly.

          • Observer

            Anything to win an argument, right?

          • dll

            If only he could spell anomaly. Maybe wasn’t educated here . . .

    • grace

      As an adult – I’ve had drivers honk at me for walking in the street that has no sidewalks. I had a driver stop and swear at me (in front of my child) for using a crosswalk on Military Rd. And with the 4 elementary, 2 middle and 1 high school buses that take my street at 30 miles an hour, I just can’t see the risk of children walking. Our neighborhood is like Brigadoon – you can’t get out. I have spent years fighting this fight with the council, zoning, planning, walk Arlington, APS, Neighborhood Conservation. You name it.
      We walk and bike the trails for exercise.

      • OldYeller

        Nice Brigadoon reference, bet you’ll see that search term rise a few pegs this morning on the Google

    • in stitches

      “The data must be out there to say which one takes more years off your child’s life in the aggregate.”

      Then go find it, please. I’ll not hold my breath….

      I mean, if someone has a heart attack at 60, you think they can skip back over the previous 50 years of behavior and point to riding the bus to school as a proximate cause?

      You really think the immediate effects of a traffic or pedestrian accident can be equated with the effects that riding a bus to school may impart decades in the future, ignoring thousands of other contributing factors including genetic and hereditary ones?

      That is pure derp thought process there.

      And just chew on this: if by some wild stretch of the imagination they could actually prove causation, every school system in the country would be immediately sued for knowingly contributing to the deaths of thousands of adults for letting them ride buses to school. Because Statistics!

      SMMFH

    • Lee-n-Glebe

      I think you’d be surprised at the low number of obese kids here. Note: my experience is limited to elementary school kids (mine are in elementary). In my non-scientific passing observation of the middle and high school kids walking around their school yards, the obese figure seems to increase, but not by all that much.

  • JimPB

    Operating a school bus system is both costly and a hassle. Minimize.
    The alternative: invest in sidewalks, in traffic control and in safety patrols so that most children can safely walk to and from school. The sidewalks and traffic control should also be designed to make ARLCo safe for adult pedestrians.

    • Choices are EXpensive

      Great idea!!! If you can make it happen by September 4, 2012, I think we’ve got ourselves a solution. Now we can all move on with our lives.

    • Allen

      How long until Arlington rolls out its new “Bus Free Diet” campaign, with a few cherry-picked 6th graders posting videos about how cool their lives have gotten since they stopped taking the school bus to school?

    • grace

      From your mouth to the council’s ears.

    • Josh S

      Um, I think that the county has invested a great deal in improving pedestrian infrastructure and reducing traffic speeds in residential neighborhoods over the last ten years.
      In fact, this site is constantly filled with people complaining about it. (cause it slows them down while in their cars)
      Were there any roundabouts in ARlington ten years ago?
      Did anyone here know what a speed table was ten years ago?
      Wasn’t Williamsburg Blvd (for example) two lanes each way ten years ago?
      Were there any pedestrian activated crosswalk signals in ARlington ten years ago?
      etc.
      etc.
      etc.

    • observer

      Operating a school system is both costly and a hassle.

  • JimPB

    Additional to above:

    School bus service for routes would be ended when sidewalks, traffic control and safety patrols are in place and a substantial majority of the parents of the effected children agree that their children can safely walk to and from school.

    When a substantial proportion of parents do not believe that the sidewalks, traffic calming and safely patrol enable their children to safely walk to and from school, the parents would be asked to identify specific risks. These risks should then be addressed to the satisfaction of most of the parents (some folks will never be satisfied).

  • Frustrated Bus Mom

    Mr. Sutton is a very kind man. I wish him well in his retirement and in his getting to spend quality time with his grandkids. That being said, under his watch Arlington spent $17K to buy bus routing software EDULOG, which the report noted was never implemented by the transpo office (see FY08 adopted budget page 342).

    This explains why bus stop locations were picked seemingly out of thin air and those of us with kids on buses who had to walk or wait with younger children decided on a daily basis to idle minivans of kids rather than risk the no-sidewalk/ wait-next-to-high-speed-traffic-with-little-kids options. Getting an e-mail or phone call returned from the bus office was nearly impossible.

    Some buses to the lottery schools are packed to the gills, while others have 10 kids on them. If busing is to continue, why can’t they provide smaller buses for smaller routes?

    Our individual bus drivers are awesome, but the APS transpo dept can’t tell parents or schools where our kids are if they are on the bus when it breaks down. If a bus doesn’t show up in the morning, the #2 bus official actually told me “We can’t possibly call all the parents.” Evidently listserves or alert systems “cost money,” I was told. If another 9/11 happened when kids were on buses, APS policy is they send ‘em to the nearest Arlington public or gov’t building. But they currently couldn’t tell the parents of almost 8,000 kids on 112 routes which building that is. Guess we’ll all just have to call the new call center. That will work great. Hope they have lots of rotary phones ready to go.

    How much did Arlington spend on the audit and report to politely call the transpo dept dysfunctional? Parents could have told em that for free.

    It’s time to clean house on the admin side. Bring in some folks with fresh ideas and some technological background. Arlington is paying $82,000 in consulting fees (see March 8, 2012 school board memo on FY13 budget) to implement the transpo study and for “change management assistance.” Firing would be a lot more efficient in the long term!

    • Choices are EXpensive

      In two years of riding the bus almost every day, I think our bus (which is on its third run of the day, b/c we’re a 9:00 bell) has been more than 5 minutes late 4 times, and twice was because of neighborhood road closures that I noticed a few minutes later on the way to work.

      Maybe some people have had a lot of problems with APS Transpo, but we haven’t. Yet, we’re going to be lucky enough to get our route completely eliminated.

      • Josh S

        It’s just like the Metro – people notice and remember the few times that it screws up and impacts their lives negatively. The vast majority of the time when it works it just blends in and people ignore it.
        This is why, for example, in response to Frustrated Bus Mom above, it wouldn’t work to simply have the parents tell management how to fix the system. Too much emotion and bias.

        • Frustrated Bus Mom

          I’m not saying consultants are bad, but when principals and parents have been crazed over APS transpo for years did our elected leaders really need to spend hundreds of thousands for reports to tell us the people running the office weren’t up to the job?

          And I agree it usually runs better than expected thanks to our great bus drivers. But try just a couple mornings of having no idea if you need to wait just 2 more minutes or pile a bunch of kids in a car to drive across town, or wonder where to find your school bus and your child when a fire shuts down the normal drop-off street and they can’t tell you where the bus went. God-forbid another event takes place and all the kids are “lost” cause the system is set up to fail.

          They spent $311,810 to buy digital radios for 130 buses ($62K interest, $270K principal) but couldn’t figure out how to track them? I get alerts when there is a fender bender on Wash Blvd , yet APS can’t tell me where my kid is for 45 minutes after they are supposed to be there? Yes, I get emotional about it.

  • 8-16 Next School Board Meeting

    Might be time for us to all come and let the school board know what we think of their Superintendent’s brilliant new policy on transportation. (Well, we won’t actually know what the policy is because the school board meeting is almost 2.5 weeks before the start of school– and Dr. Murphy doesn’t think he needs to let parents know of a major shift in transportation policy so far in advance) My conjecture is that the policy is “Screw the safety of our kids, let’s save a few bucks”

    The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday August 16 and is held in the Board Room, first floor, 1426 North Quincy Street.

  • Elmer

    Not enough buses? Too many kids being bused around? Return to the neighborhood school concept and stop busing kids all over the county for “choice” school. The current system also displaces neighborhood kids who could be going to that “choice” school if it became a neighborhood school and those displaced kids also end up being bused past the “choice” school.
    I know, too simplistic a solution for Arlingtonians to grasp.

    • The voice in your head

      God, you’re brilliant! Let’s go have another donut!!

      • Elmer

        “Mr. Voice in the Head”:You like publically funding choice schools in Arlington? I want a publically funded “choice” school that teaches Sharia law and admits only males.
        Chew on that for while.

        • The voice in your head

          I know, right?

    • Lee-n-Glebe

      Right. Fewer choices, not more. Perfect.

      • Elmer

        Please, you want choice and your neighborhood school is not good enough for your kid(s), get out your checkbook and write you tuition check to the private schoiol oyour choice.
        Why should I have to fund your choice when there are perfectly adequate neighborhood schools for your kid(s) to attend?

        • The voice in your head

          Showed him! High five!

          • Elmer

            “Mr. Voice in the etc.”, You still have not addressed the issue of a publically funded “choice” school that teaches Sharia law and that admits only males.
            Pandora’s box was opened when the county bought into this publically funded “choice” concept because the neighborhood schools were not good enough for children of the entitled.

          • Daffy

            Come on. It’s gotta be wabbit season somewhere. Go get ’em!

          • Shouldn’t need to be said

            Really? The so-called “choice” schools in Arlington allow students to focus on things like science/math, Spanish language immersion, and “traditional” (uniforms, tough grading) education techniques. Do you really think your patently absurd, intentionally inflammatory, and unconstitutional (that whole church/state thing) “suggestion” warrants a response?

          • Lee-n-Glebe

            Explain again, please, how people chosen by lottery are “entitled”? Were they deemed entitled before or after they were randomly picked?

        • Lee-n-Glebe

          So . . . we turn all of the choice schools into neighborhood schools. Doesn’t change the number of total seats needed. Same diff, no diff.

          • Elmer

            Unless all your choice schools are at capacity, you may find that changing them over to neighborhood schools will relieve the capacity issues at the existing neigborhood schools and obviously it will reduce the need for cross county busing and out of neigborhood busing. It will also reduce the number of specialized staff currently employed at choice schools such as Montessori.
            Let’s think outside your box please.

          • Math

            Actually, eliminating choice schools, reduces the transportation costs substantially after you return them to the neighborhoods. You wouldn’t be busing kids all over the county but instead you’d bus them at most a couple of miles (> 1, less than alot) I’ve got a “choice school 4 blocks from my house that my kids is not eligible to go to because we’re not in the right neighborhood. Instead we have to (now walk) almost a mile to get to school. Get rid of the choice schools and you could redeploy the buses to the neighborhood schools where needed.

          • Elmer

            I agree 100 percent but will you ever be in for a lecture by those who believe they are entitled have the school of their choice funded by the taxpayers instead of digging into their own pocket for tuition.

          • Lee-n-Glebe

            Well, I guess you’ll just have to be outraged. I think it’s a good thing that the county offers its students different options – it’s actually a selling point for the county. Whenever I tell people not from around here about the system they think it’s a great idea. My kids don’t go to choice schools, but I love the fact that they’re here.

      • Elmer

        OK, Lee-n-Glebe: For taxpayer funded choice how about a “choice” school that teaches Sharia law and admits only males?
        Perfect!

        • Lee-n-Glebe

          Yeah. How about that.

          • Elmer

            Lee-n-Glebe, OK then join my petition to the school board to institute this choice school funded by the county taxpayers and watch the hypocrites run. Perfect as you say.
            How about that?

          • Lee-n-Glebe

            Wow.

      • observer

        How about offering choices at all the schools so you don’t have to develop this system that requires a lottery in the first place because too many people choose the special schools?

        If there is enough demand that a lottery is required, shouldn’t that be a flag to administrators that demand is high and maybe those programs should be options at more schools?

        Then you would ease the strain that the few choice schools place on the bus system, and obviate the need for a lottery.

        p.s. I think you understood the initial issue, you just seemed to want to have a semantics battle.

    • SouthArlingtonMom

      Ironically, take a look at the kids attending the choice schools in the APS transfer reports. The majority of students attending choice schools are from the neighborhood schools adjacent to the choice school.

  • Good riddance

    Good riddance. Mr. Sutton was an awful director. My 1st grader was accidentally dropped off in the middle of a busy area without any adult. She was lost for over an hour before I discovered she was missing and no one knew where she was. Fortunately we found my daughter and she was okay. When I tried to talk to Mr. Sutton about what happened, he was defensive and yelled at me. He told me that his driver did the right thing (even thought it was against APS policy to drop off a 1st grader without an adult), that it was not his job to educate folks about the policy, and that his job was to merely follow policy (not to question it). Thankfully the rest of the APS staff reacted better than Mr. Sutton in addressing the situation.

  • Ned

    Haven’t we seen enough of the self-promoting Dr. Murphy and the tumult that seems to surround him?

    Of course, this is the Board that hired him so it’s doubtful they’d acknowledge culpability.

    • Math

      +1,000

  • Observer

    Another tertiary effect of Arlington’s lack of integrating schools into its purported Smart Growth strategies. If school construction had kept up with demand, and been planned for the areas where we have both population growth and transportation infrastructure, they could afford to use the buses they have now to serve the outer county areas.

    But Arlington’s Smart Growth is really about maximizing revenue to the exclusion of certain other social services, like education access. It’s Smart Growth, except for the parts where they are not smart about it.

    • Josh S

      You make a good point here. It seems that perhaps APS and the Planning Dept have not talked as much as they should have.

    • DCBuff

      Totally spot on. Recall, though, several years (6-7?) ago when APS decided the grand solution would be to redraw school boundries, and all the noise that followed. Very little at the time about longterm planning (school construction, other than gold-plated high schools), just trailers and hoping it would all go away.

      • Memories (BAD MEMORIES)

        Yep, and rather than having a backbone, the School Board cowed under to the NW Arlington neighborhoods that might have been redistricted. They were so busy tucking tail and walking away, that they forgot to look to the future.

        They did spend lots of money building new schools (especially H.S.) that were at or above capacity the day they reopened.

        APS is too worried about all the fancy programs they can crow about at the National Education Conferences, while not focusing their resources on the basics like having enough classroom space and making sure there is money to get kids to school safely. Those ain’t sexy, but they’re kind of important areas to consider.

        • Elmer

          Rather than working on neighborhood school programs they dump our tax dollars into providing Montessori schools and other high priced bennies for the elite who call the shots here and are too upscale to have their kids rub elbows with the unwashed in the neighborhood.
          I’m working on a Sharia law “choice” school-that will put them to the test of far they will carry their silliness.

  • NoVapologist

    [img]http://damnisteppedinpoo.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/pic-1-think-of-the-children.jpg[/img]

  • UA

    Parents – How much would you be willing to pay per day for someone to take your child to school?

    • Lee-n-Glebe

      There probably is a market for a private bus service. I wonder what the liability insurance on something like that would run?

      • Pike

        Would you propose allowing just one company to operate this service, or open it for competition among several? Do you think the free market will provide a better solution to Arlington’s busing problem than the county can do?

        • Lee-n-Glebe

          I’m not “proposing” anything, just saying that I’d bet such a service would, all other things being equal, be a viable business idea.

          I would tend to think multiple services could co-exist, and I would also guess that the private sector could do an equally good, and possibly better, busing job.

      • OldYeller

        I think in the area of $450 Gozillion dollars. Better get Bain on the case.

      • Elmer

        There is also a great private market for “choice”schools but that requires your paying tuition and not having the taxpayers fund your “choice”.

        • One Trick Pony

          Hi Buddy! Missed you at the last family reunion!

  • Astoria442

    G Sutton was a useless old man. I asked him to why a certain bus stop was chosen and he couldn’t give me a straight answer; what he’s good at was patronizing me with condescending emails. Oh he’s also good at apologizing after things were escalated to his supervisors. Technology has passed him by years ago. This retirement/termination is long overdue.

  • Resident

    Personal attacks are not appropriate for a public website, Astoria. Stick to the issues rather than name calling.

    • CW

      If he really did “patroniz[e] [him/her] with condescending emails”, that sounds like an issue to me, no?

      • Sam

        One persons patronizing email is another persons attempt to explain their reasoning. It’s all hyperbole unless there’s actual evidence.

  • Resident

    Calling names is a personal attack. Referencing one’s age is discriminatory.

    Public websites should be used to share ideas to solve problems.

    • UptonHiller

      You know how I know you’re not a lawyer?

    • Richard Cranium

      Hi! Welcome to the Interwebz!

  • Astoria442

    judge for yourself:


    From: “Sutton, Gregory”
    To: Astoria442; “Carter, Kathryn”
    Cc: School Principal
    Sent: Thursday, December 22, 2011 2:30 PM
    Subject: RE: Bus {…} stop

    Mr. Astoria442,

    There are several stops in the county that have few or no sidewalks in some areas. There are even students in neighborhoods who must walk to school, sometimes without the benefit of sidewalks in some instances. Although you might feel that you have a valid reason for your request, the current stop is well within established policies and procedures (found in Arlington Public Schools Policy Implementation Procedures 50-5.1), and therefore we will not be relocating that stop this year.

    Regards,

    Gregg Sutton”

    • Yosey

      3..2..1…..

    • Sam

      Not trying to pick a fight here but how would you have rather had him write this email? As an unbiased reader I don’t see this as patronizing.

      • The voice in your head

        it’s the “You might feel” part. Coulda left that out….

  • APSnumberone

    Just one more in a long line of APS administrators who have left under Dr. Murphy’s tenure. Many were good people doing a good job under a failure of a superintendent and couldn’t take it. Wake up School Board!

    • SoArl

      Yeah, this is definitely concerning. My kid starts kindergarten this fall and the majority of emails I get from APS are about what wonderful thing Murphy is doing. Meanwhile, I still have no idea what day my kid’s orientation is and I’ve had to call to find out information like when is extended day payment due, why haven’t I received various passwords and user names for online services, etc, etc.

      • Lee-n-Glebe

        ProTip – Start a dialogue with your principal early on. Our elementary school principal is extremely communicative – I hope you have the same experience.

        • SoArl

          Yeah, I plan to, after she starts! Kid is going to Campbell and they just announced the new principal yesterday… All the principals I met while visiting schools seemed great and made me happy I decided to send her to public school. Can’t say I’m getting a good impression of the upper admins, though.

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