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The Bus is Rolling in Quail Hill & Los Olivos

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A new pilot program rolled out, literally, on August 24th, the first day of school. That’s when a school bus — partially funded by the City of Irvine — began ferrying students between University High School and the Quail Hill and Los Olivos neighborhoods.

The new service, which families sign up and pay a fee for, appeared to be an immediate hit. Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) spokesperson, Annie Brown, reported that the 50-seat bus is fully subscribed, with a 30-name waiting list.

The bus service had long been sought by Quail Hill families, with the school district offering to start bus service this semester if the parents could raise $75,000 to underwrite its cost. The parents asked the Irvine City Council to fund $50,000 of that, with affected families chipping in to raise the rest.

At the request of Mayor Farrah Khan and Councilmember Larry Agran, the Council took up the matter at its August 8th meeting.

At that meeting, the Quail Hill parents told the Council that their area is remote from the high school, and requires driving a circuitous route in morning or afternoon traffic — taking as much as 25 or 30 minutes each way. Several parents testified that the need to drive their kids to and from school was holding them back from getting full-time employment. Others pointed out that bus service would help the environment by eliminating scores of car trips each day.

The Council voted 5-0 to allocate up to $55,000 for bus service and directed City Manager Oliver Chi to work with the district staff as appropriate to begin a pilot program. As a result, the bus for Uni High students in Quail Hill and Los Olivos was ready to roll when the new school year began.

Councilmembers also said they’d like to see a fuller discussion of how the City can help improve school transportation while reducing its carbon footprint, with Councilmember Agran stating that it would be “a good idea” to include school transportation in the Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP) now being drafted by the City staff.

The Quail Hill pilot program indicates there could be a latent demand in the community for such a cooperative effort between the City and IUSD.

Brown said that over the summer, 22 families had told the district they would be willing to pay for the service, but “the City of Irvine’s one-time funding of $55,000 through a pilot program reduced the cost for families in the Quail Hill neighborhoods, resulting in additional families requesting busing.”

Roger Bloom

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