City not on board with school division bus service

Jason Kerr
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The city of Prince Albert says they are unable to accommodate the Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division’s recent decision to increase their busing services.

Coun. Martin Ring speaks at Monday's city council meeting.

The school division recently announced plans to offer intercity bus routes for pre-kindergarten to Grade 8 schools in an attempt to help increase attendance, but the city says they don’t have the infrastructure to meet that need.

“We’ve got roadways that are crumbling in some of our new areas with frost boils and everything else, then we’re going to have additional buses pounding the pavement through these residential areas,” Coun. Martin Ring said at Monday’s city council meeting.  “That’s not what (the roads) were designed for.”

“I know in residential areas, lots of them, they’re banned, so I’m interested to see how they’re going to go door-to-door,” Mayor Greg Dionne agreed.

The problem stems from the quality of the roads, which in most of Prince Albert’s residential areas are simply not built to withstand the extra strain caused by buses.  Heavier traffic is restricted to arterial roads, which have a greater amount of asphalt and sub-base thickness.

Director of public works Colin Innes said it’s not possible to make that kind of upgrade that quickly.

“Currently we’re doing about $4 million worth of work in a year and we’re only doing a small portion of the overall system,” he said.  “We’d have to take a look at this and it would be something that would have to get phased in over a long period.”

Council approved a motion for a report on the subject, which will show where school buses are allowed to go in the city.

Innes says it’s going to be difficult to accommodate the school division’s request without making major changes.  He says he wants the two groups to work together with what they have.

“I think we’re going to have to take a look at what (Sask Rivers) is looking to do and what they want to do, and then take a look and see how maybe that could be accommodated within the existing system.”

Innes says he doesn’t have an estimate for how much renovating the city’s road system would cost.  However, even if they could afford it, they would find it difficult to change road classifications.

“Kids only go to school for a set number of years… whereas typically the cycle of how we’re doing our pavement and asphalt replacement, we’re on a much longer cycle,” he says.  “Buses would change as far as who’s picking up kids, and it would change very quickly, so for us to say, well, we’re going to change the designation of a road and build it to a different standard, because there’s a bus on it today, well that child may be graduated and gone and there won’t be a bus that will go there for another ten years.”

Sask Rivers announced the plans for bus route expansion last week.  They plan on offering bus services to pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students who live more than 200 metres from their school.  The distance increases to 400 metres for students in Grade 1-8.

Organizations: Prince Albert

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Recent comments

  • Incredulous
    April 09, 2014 - 22:33

    Truancy is epidemic in PA. Any initiative that helps kids get to school should be applauded. If kids don't graduate, they can't get jobs. If they can't get jobs they don't pay taxes. If they don't pay taxes our city budget gets tighter and tighter. Bussing for students = better roads in the future and a better future for everyone in our city.

  • Disappointed
    April 09, 2014 - 12:40

    I certainly hope the city recognizes the immense benefits (both social and financial) to providing transportation to/from school for the youth of this community. Funded school transportation will decrease truancy rates and improve overall educational outcomes for Prince Albert's children, inevitably yielding positive results for this community!!!! While I recognize that protecting the integrity of our roads is important, I am disappointed in the city's initial response to Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division's transportation plan. It seems incredibly short-sighted to focus solely on the negative impact that providing school transportation will play on the roads and fail to recognize the positive impact it will have on our most important resource: our children (and their education)!!!! Surely a plan with the road system can be made to support Sask Rivers' transportation plan aimed at continuing to build a well-educated population in this community!!!!