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NOT IN SERVICE: Report highlights issues with public transit for students

Posted at 10:45 PM, Jun 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-29 23:23:25-04

BALTIMORE — NOT IN SERVICE: Why Public Transit Must Aim to Serve Students is a report created by the Fund for Educational Excellence.

They are a Baltimore City nonprofit focused on using the voices of students to amplify their voice and concerns.

Baltimore City Public Schools middle and high school students are the only students in Maryland who rely on public transit to get to school.

Kwane Wyatt is one of the authors of the report.

“It’s been that way for decades and it’s worse now for some students because we are in a choice district since 2005,” Wyatt said. “I think choice is the best thing for students but now if you’re not going to a zone school and the school that’s best for you is on the other side of town you have a lot more incidents of students who have to catch multiple buses and modes of transportation to get to school.”

Kamri Moses just graduated from Western High School.

She is one of the more than 270 students surveyed for the study.

She would walk to Edmondson and Wildwood and sit on the 38 bus for about an hour each day.

“It would probably be easy for me to just walk home knowing the bus wouldn’t come,” Moses said. “Which people probably did. I knew that I needed to be at school. Education is kind of like a way out for a lot of young black kids in Baltimore. I knew that missing a day of school might not seem big to everyone but it’s big to me.”

The report calls for the MTA to include students on the Citizens Advisory Committee.

It also recommends making rides free for students 24/7, increasing the amount of routes, and bringing back the Red line.

Lastly, the group is pushing for the MTA to combat harassment through an aggressive add campaign.

“Adult Men approaching them cat calling them, following them from one bus to the next,” Wyatt said. “One young lady said you can’t look pretty on the bus because if you do you’re going to attract certain negative attention.”

A spokesperson for MTA sent a statement in response saying that the Federal transit Administration restricts how school service can be used.

Meaning buses that get federal grant money can’t exclusively transport students.

“FTA does allow MDOT MTA to provide ‘‘tripper’’ service, which is mass transit service modified to accommodate the needs of school students and personnel. Buses used for tripper service must be clearly marked as open to the public and may not carry designations such as ‘School Bus’ or ‘School Special.’"

One of the main reasons many students said they wanted their own routes was because of safety concerns.

One in three students said they didn’t feel safe on public buses.

“In the more extreme cases that they’ve been assaulted,” Wyatt said. “We had one young lady that we highlighted in the report, her and her God-sister were robbed at gunpoint.”

The transit safety and investment act designed to add more than $120 million annually to the MTA budget made it through the general assembly, but was vetoed by Governor Hogan.