Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 17, 2013

Bad roads limit bus access

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — Residents of Hoosier Valley Road don’t want to send their children on foot down an unlit dirt road and past an unofficial outdoor gun range to catch the school bus.

But Traverse City Area Public Schools officials plan to shorten the Hoosier Valley Road bus route next year, meaning some students could be making the daily walk despite their parent’s displeasure.

“You can’t tell me you are going to make kids walk on that dark... road a mile and a half to get to Vance Road,” said Dave Cook, a retired resident whose son is a TCAPS eighth-grader.

Hoosier Valley Road is a sparsely populated, winding dirt road full of potholes, some of which measure several feet in diameter. TCAPS buses currently travel about 2.5 miles down the tree-lined track before turning around at Megan Lane, but next year buses will turn around at Vance Road, about 1.5 miles closer to where Hoosier Valley intersects Beitner Road.

Since the 2011-12 school year, buses have racked up thousands of dollars in damage from the road, including cracked hoods, broken lights and mirrors, lost radio antennas and broken exhaust hangers, TCAPS Transportation Director Christine Thomas-Hill said.

“Our buses physically can’t get down there without taking major damage,” said Paul Soma, the district’s chief financial officer.

Soma said the district is not singling out Hoosier Valley Road residents. TCAPS has reduced its transportation budget by roughly $2 million since 2010. Much of the savings are due to other route consolidations.

“These changes have been made throughout our school system,” Soma said. “It’s part of making our transportation more efficient, as we’ve had to do because of budget cuts.”

But Hoosier Valley Road residents said the decision to shorten the route threatens their children’s safety.

Sara Gindin lives on Hoosier Valley Road with her grandchildren, some of whom ride TCAPS buses to school, including a blind granddaughter. Gindin worries about her grandchildren having to walk nearly two miles, past state-owned land that has become a popular gun range, to reach the Vance Road intersection.

She estimated her grandchildren will have to leave at 4:30 a.m. to reach the stop by the time the bus arrives at 6 a.m.

“There’s no sidewalks,” Gindin said. “It’s a mess. Our kids are going to get run over at night.”

Dave Conn doesn’t have children who attend TCAPS, but he worried about the resale value of his Hoosier Valley Road home.

“If there is no bus service down here, it would be about impossible to sell the house,” Conn said.

Soma said the district can’t consider factors like home values when planning bus routes, and said it’s up to parents to make sure their children safely arrive at bus stops.

Cook said he will drive his son to the bus stop when it’s moved to Vance Road, but he added not all parents, including those who work early morning shifts, can do that.

TCAPS officially will announce the route change during a 6 p.m. meeting today at the district’s Cass Road transportation building.