By Rabbi Moshe Zev Weisberg, on behalf of Lakewood Community Busing Task Force
We are pleased to report that the two day busing drill was concluded successfully. On behalf of the Lakewood Community Busing Task Force, we sincerely thank the thousands and thousands of Lakewood school children parents who actively participated in this drill. Participation was near-universal and the test drill seems to be an accurate preview of what traffic might look like in the fall if bussing cuts are not restored.
Special recognition and appreciation is given to the Lakewood Police Department; the various emergency services serving the Lakewood community and beyond; and all others who contributed to an orderly and effective dry run of real-life situation we may be facing this September.
Initial data from many observation points and supported by the commercial traffic reporting service WAZE, indicate an average of 20 to 40 minutes of additional delays due to the extra congestion caused by the additional carpooling.
Especially hit hard was the northbound Route 9 corridor from Cross Street to Lake Carasaljo and the streets feeding into it; particularly Central Avenue, James Street, Ninth Street and Clifton Avenue. School starting times were significantly affected, generally causing a loss of 30 minutes to an hour of classroom instruction due to the late arrival of many students. The towns hundreds of teachers, educators and administrators were seriously challenged to arrive at school on time.
As predicted, these delays coming in tandem with already heavily congested rush hour traffic, clearly result in a nightmare for commuters, residents, schools children and parents. Working mothers, who already juggling child care and job responsibilities, were particularly hard hit.
At least In Lakewood’s case, the term ‘Courtesy Busing’ is a total mislabeling of the crucial service that is vital to the safety of Lakewood’s children and necessary to keep traffic flowing in an orderly manner.
Please note that this is not an Orthodox issue. According to Lakewood BOE members, 2000 public school students, mostly minority low income students without a household car, are stated to lose their busing as well. As such, an immediate effective solution must be found to provide safe and efficient school transportation for all of Lakewood’s children. The situation is simply unsustainable in the long run. While the task force sincerely regrets any inconvenience caused to residents and commuters during the drill period, the drill was necessary and the results speak for themselves. It should be clear to all stakeholders and decision makers that we must continue to work together in a cooperative spirit to tackle this issue with urgency and resolve to assure that the situation of these last two days does not repeat itself permanently in the fall.
We will continue our joint discussions with representatives of the Lakewood School District, the State Education Department and Lakewood Township municipal officials to find cost-effective solutions to this potential nightmare. With each of us – including the schools involved – doing its share to provide resources and increase efficiency, we will hopeful craft a workable sustainable solution to a most challenging and complex issue.