GN Buses: Overcrowded?

Picture taken by Ricky Mendez

Picture taken by Ricky Mendez

Over the course of the school year, the buses at Glenbard North High School students have noticed that the buses have too many students who ride the bus for the amount of bus space available. One leading cause of this lack of space is due to the process of assuming a certain number of students will ride each bus and being wrong with their assumption.

Students at Glenbard North who ride the bus have noticed that there constantly isn’t enough room on their bus for everyone assigned to it, so Glenbard North Principal Dr. John Mensik spoke on the process of selecting the number of students who are assigned to ride each bus. Mensik said, “we go by 43% of students in assigned area that we can assume will be taking a bus on a daily basis, because a lot of students walk and some students get a ride.” Mensik reveals that the process for figuring out how many students will be on each bus is 43% of students in a given area are expected to ride the bus. This means that if they have 100 kids who are assigned and allowed to ride a certain bus, the school will assume 43 of those students will ride. There are scenarios where the percentage is higher based on location, but the process remains the same throughout. This number can be changed if the school notices an issue on the days the staff counts the buses, but the variability of riders changes often enough that the counts also don’t work as intended.

There are times that when getting on the bus students feel there isn’t enough room left on the bus for them and it isn’t a safe way to ride. When asked about this, Assistant Principal of Glenbard North Eric Johansen said, “Although it may be, you know, legally compliant to have three to a seat…  it might be a little less comfortable. Just take a ride to school because if you don’t have another way here, we want you to get to school still.” Johansen shows that the school understands that there are times where the bus may feel uncomfortable or unsafe, but as long as the bus follows the law they will allow that bus to go. Illinois state law states that each student needs 13 inches of space given, and with the average school bus seat averaging 39 inches across that allows for 3 per seat. The law is targeted more for those in grade schools, but is applied the same to those who are in high school. Students feel this isn’t a safe way of riding and the school will take note of this and make changes from time to time, but in a majority of cases they allow it because it doesn’t break any laws. This means that in their application of a percentage of students who they assume will ride the school feels more comfortable having an estimate of less students than reality because they know there is room to have more than 2 students per seat.

Space on the bus isn’t a new issue at Glenbard North, and has been going on for at least the past four years, if not even longer than that. Senior at Glenbard North Thomas Coyotl said “I feel like it’s been an issue since freshman year, there’s always been too many students on our bus.” In saying this Coyotl shows that the school hasn’t taken much action towards changing the environment on the buses, and can only remember the bus as overpacked. This means that the school has had years to try and find the solution to this problem, but it also shows that there hasn’t been anything done that has made an impact on the way students feel.

Students feel that the process of assuming how many kids will ride a bus based on an average makes it where the number of students riding a bus isn’t kept track of, and students who know this use it to ride a bus that isn’t theirs. Senior at Glenbard North Cesar Leyva said “I feel like the buses could do a better job of keeping track of the amount of people on each bus, especially making sure people get on their right bus every day.” Leyva says the students who realize there isn’t much attention paid to the buses use this in their favor to ride a bus they don’t belong on. This leads back to the issue of using an average to assume who will ride the bus, because it leaves room for more people to ride than should due to the fact that there is no real number of who will ride the bus. A student on the wrong bus could fall into the range the school finds acceptable, and the school will never know that the student is on the wrong bus even if the number feel wrong.

The bus has been an ongoing issue for a number of years now so a future where things change seems unlikely, but the general consensus between students is that a change in the process of assigning buses is a good first step.