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Baltimore City Council committee holds meeting to hear student experiences riding MTA buses to school

Baltimore City Council committee holds meeting to hear student experiences riding MTA buses to school
Posted at 10:29 PM, Dec 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-16 23:15:19-05

BALTIMORE — Baltimore’s Education Workforce and Youth Committee held a public hearing to listen to the experiences of city schools' students who ride MTA buses to get to and from school.

“It has been a very exacerbating and troubling experience,” said one parent.

The mother spoke on behalf of her kids during the hearing on Thursday. She said they have problems getting to school on time because the buses often pass her kids at the bus stop.

She said an alternative bus stop is also not a great option because they have to walk pass abandoned properties and people who are drugs.

“I’m always worried about their safety,” she said.

And she’s not alone. A teacher speaking on behalf of one her students shared a horrifying story about a recent encounter with a potential predator while a girl was walking to the bus stop.

“A car stopped right in front of me and an old man offered me a ride,” the teacher referencing the story her students told her. “I said no but he kept circling around me.”

MTA’s Holly Arnold said the agency’s police department closely works with BPD. She said MTA uses data on crime hot spots to know where its officers are needed the most.

“This is huge for me. It is a top priority for our agency,” Arnold said. “As a transit rider I want to ensure everyone feels safe on our buses, especially students.”

But safety isn’t the only issue impacting students who ride MTA. A nonprofit called Fund for Educational Excellence surveyed nearly 300 students and found long commutes and unreliable service were also problems for students.

“We heard from many students that they are late at least once and sometimes multiple times per week,” Kwame Wyatt with Fund for Educational Excellence said. “Public transportation is the primary reason that they cited for being late to school.”

In the non-profit’s report, students believe adding more shelters and better lighting at bus stops would help them feel safer.

They also recommend increasing the number of buses and how often they run to help get them to school on time.

“An efficient, effective bus system is really important for student success,” said Councilwoman Odette Ramos.

Ramos said the council is going to take in the information they received during the hearing and figure out moving forward the next step on how they can help improve service for students.