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The Times reports that Southern California school districts are cutting back on school bus funding to help balance their budgets.  In some areas, the urban design style so "popular" in Southern California has led those students unfortunate enough to lose their bus options no choices besides the private automobile for transport or not going to school at all.  Unsurprisingly, these cuts are proving less than popular.

Critics worry that the cuts will increase traffic around schools, shiftcosts to parents already struggling with rising gas prices and promptmore absenteeism, hurting students' academic achievement. But paramountis the fear that the reductions will endanger students as more walk ordrive to school.

While reducing access to school is certainly a low point for our society, what's even worse is that we seem to have no other transportation options for students when there's a cutback in the amount of buses and bus routes available.  Too many students don't believe they have the options to walk or bike to school because freeways or multi-lane surface streets serve as dangerous barriers to students walking or biking to school.  And, as we saw in Van Nuys, oftentimes schools have no facilities for cyclists to park their vehicle despite providing a sea of asphalt for car driving students.

It's inexcusable to leave a generation of students with no means besides the private automobile to get to school.  However, for many of the students left without bus service, there would be other options if schools and municipalities act now.  Locals shouldn't wait for either Caltrans or the Federal Government to fund Safe Streets to School programs, they should act now to make certain intersections near the schools are improved, and freshly painted.  Bike routes from the various community served by the school should be planned and marked and bike routes should be well marked.  This can be done in the time between now and the start of the school year.

Like any crisis, this one brings a certain amount of opportunity.  Whether or not schools, school districts and elected leaders are creative enough to take advantage of them remains to be seen.

Photo: LemonReese/Flickr 

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