The November 2018 elections are behind us now. The five-member City Council, including two new members — Farrah Khan and Anthony Kuo — is now seated. So, too, is the Irvine School Board, with longtime incumbents Sharon Wallin and Ira Glasky each re-elected to a four-year term.
Before the 2018 elections completely fade from the rear-view mirror, let’s not forget the important issues that were raised last fall — and that need to be addressed.
As I wrote last time, Irvine voters made it clear that they were troubled by two serious matters facing our community and our schools: first, the threat of gun violence in our schools; and, second, the worsening traffic conditions at neighborhood school sites.
In my last column, I focused on the need for improved school security in the face of horrific gun violence on public school campuses across the country. I urged our elected officials — both at City Hall and on the Irvine School Board — to do much more … and to move quickly.
This time, I want to exhort these same elected officials to address the school transportation issue and the need to improve traffic safety at school sites.
Since 2015, I have been writing articles calling attention to the frustrating and even dangerous traffic conditions at neighborhood school sites across the City. Each weekday morning, Monday through Friday, there is a crush of traffic: teachers and staff driving to school; teenage high school drivers; and parents driving to school to drop off their own kids, while dodging young pedestrians and bicyclists. Now, add to this the everyday commuters trying to get to work, but having to contend with an unavoidable traffic jam at the school site. In addition to the frustration and stress of it all, it’s downright dangerous.
Most of us are familiar with the problem because we’ve experienced it. Here is the good news: There is a solution familiar to us all — big yellow school buses. If Irvine planned and developed a comprehensive, citywide school bus system, the morning “crush” at most schools would be significantly reduced, and the nearby streets and neighborhoods would be safer too.
So, what will it take to make it happen? I recently put this question to Larry Agran, the former Mayor of Irvine. Agran responded simply: “It will take leadership and money.”
Then, he added, “It will also take some political skill and the strong determination to actually get something done. So far, I haven’t seen any real leadership on the School Board or on the City Council. Maybe one of the newly elected Councilmembers, Farrah Khan or Anthony Kuo, will step forward. Or, the new City Manager, John Russo, could take the lead, perhaps proposing that the City and School District fund and conduct a joint study. We should undertake a feasibility analysis to determine what it would take to create a comprehensive Irvine school bus system — and what it would cost to maintain the system in the years ahead.”
Agran, who has always championed millions of dollars in City support for Irvine public schools, offered his own idea for funding a citywide school bus system as it became operational. “Perhaps the City could pay one-third of the cost, the School District one-third, and then the last third could come from a user fee paid by those families whose kids ride the bus.”
It sounds like a good idea, worth exploring. Let’s get started!
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