A special meeting by the Saugerties school board this week mulled the safety of a bus stop on Route 9W in West Camp. The matter is still unresolved.
The sole resolution up for discussion this Tuesday, October 17, asked the board to allow the district’s children to utilize the existing bus stop at the intersection of Patterson Road and Route 9W in West Camp. That resolution was defeated by a 5-3 vote, with trustees Damion Ferraro, Krista Barringer and Elena Maskell voting to approve the move.
Parents including former trustee Angie Minew and Sean Rafferty were hoping to move a current elementary-school bus pickup from a church parking lot in use for the past two years to its previous location along Patterson Road. Parents worry that children have to walk along and cross a busy road.
While they agree in principle, school officials have contended that it’s a parent’s responsibility to ensure kids reach their bus stops safely.
At a meeting of the school board the previous Tuesday, Rafferty took umbrage with the approach. “It simply amazes me that educated people as yourselves cannot come up with a better solution to a ridiculously dangerous situation than ‘it’s not our responsibility,’” Rafferty said. “Well, actually it is your responsibility, and by you saying it isn’t is a failure of the education system here in this town.”
Parents were hoping the district would consider moving the stop back to where it was on Patterson Road, at the bottom of Rafferty’s driveway. A study by the East Syracuse-based Pupil Transportation Safety Institute (PTSI) contended that the sight lines in a blind curve on the northbound lane made that stop dangerous, especially in winter.
But Rafferty countered that because the study was conducted from the shoulder of the road rather than the middle of the road, the sight-line data was flawed, and that the 70 feet reported was actually closer to 351 feet.
Minew said in August that students walking to the current bus stop had to cross three streets, including Route 9W, that they wouldn’t have had to cross if they were picked up at Patterson Road. “How is it safe to walk up 9W with no shoulder?” said Minew in August. “Honestly and truly, it could pick kids up on the other side. We’re just asking to use the same bus stop as the high school. We’re not asking for anything special. This affects about 15 neighborhood kids in the area and about ten kids that I provide [daycare] services for.”
School officials said they would revisit the site and consider seeking an amendment to the study with the issues raised by Rafferty.
In August, superintendent Seth Turner spoke generally about how bus routes and stops were established by the district, which uses Versatrans, a routing program designed by Tyler Technologies, a Texas-based software company.
“The computer will generate a pretty good idea of what will work, but it takes individual oversight to double-check and make sure,” Turner said in August. “We transport, I’m shooting from the hip right now, close to 2000 students. It works pretty well, but if there are concerns, bus drivers practice those routes during August, and if they identify an issue we can make changes. But typically there aren’t any drastic changes year to year.”
“We are very much driven by policy and law, but there is flexibility to allow for the safety of everyone involved,” continued Turner in August. “If there’s a concern, we send out our people to take a look at it, whether the issue comes from a bus driver or parent. If potentially it’s not safe to stop a bus due to visibility or speed, we will review them.”
This Wednesday morning, Minew said she and other parents left the special meeting frustrated but still determined. She credited the local police department with cracking down on speeding drivers in the area.
She said she was hopeful but also skeptical that a review by the PSTI might help. “The woman who did the safety study got the survey wrong,” said Minew. “She’s supposedly coming back out next week, and she’s going to find out that her measurements are completely wrong, and that [Rafferty’s] driveway is perfectly fine for a bus stop. So as of this point we wait until the school comes to put the correct measurement numbers in whatever formula they use to calculate distance and the weather gets colder, snow will come and those of us are faced with what do we do now …. My next step, I guess, is to go door to door to get the speed limit lowered. I don’t know what else to do.”
The next meeting of the school board is scheduled for Tuesday, November 14 at the Riccardi Elementary School.