CRANBURY: School board refuses to change bus stops

By Natalia Knochowski, Staff Writer
   CRANBURY — The Board of Education unanimously voted against moving two bus stops back to their original locations as per parents’ request at Tuesday night’s meeting.
   The bus stops, which were moved to Old Trenton Road before the beginning of school, originally were on Parkview Road and Hardley Drive.
   According to school officials, the bus stops were moved because the speed limit on Old Trenton Road was reduced from 50 mph to 35 mph.
   Additionally, picking up and dropping off students on Old Trenton Road allows bus drivers to avoid going on cul-de-sacs on Parkview Road and Hardley Drive.
   Business Administrator Joyce Picariello and Transportation Coordinator Kaye Davison decided on the new bus routes.
   Residents of both roads have been present at the past two board meetings, held Sept. 7 and 21, and have expressed their concerns over the safety of their children at the stops on Old Trenton Road.
   Some of the issues parents brought up at the past meetings were that people still drive fast on Old Trenton Road, there is construction on the road, and there was no communication from the administration on the decision to change the bus stops.
   The residents asked the board — and presented a petition — to move the stops back.
   Bus stops and routes, however, are administrative decisions and are not voted on by the board.
   Still, board President Lynne Schwarz said at the Sept. 21 meeting that the Finance-Transportation Committee would meet and give its recommendation to the board.
   At Tuesday’s meeting, Ms. Schwarz presented the committee’s report. In it, the committee listed some of the things the district considers when creating bus stops.
   Some of those include creating routes where children do not cross major streets to get to or from the bus; where there is a reduction or elimination of left turns by the bus; that are — at most — a half mile walking distance for students; where bus drivers can avoid cul-de-sacs, and where students are brought to the bus stop “rather than bringing the bus to the students.”
   According to the report, the committee also confirmed with the Police Department that the bus stops are safe.
   The report also stated that, after the Sept. 7 board meeting where parents first raised concerns, Ms. Picariello conducted a survey and found six other neighboring districts do not have bus stops in cul-de-sacs.
   She also conducted a study that compared the safety of bus stops on major roads in Cranbury and even observed the bus while it was on route.
   In addition, after the Sept. 21 meeting, individual board members observed the bus stops and routes themselves.
   Ultimately, the committee’s recommendation to the board was to support the new bus stops.
   In addition, the committee recommended that the Police Department, school administration and committee continue to provide safety measures along the bus route during and after construction work on Old Trenton Road.
   The committee also recommended in its report that the committee “explore with the appropriate agency as to the feasibility of improving the signage” indicating a school bus stop ahead. It also asked that the board look at its policy allowing people to submit a suggestion, complaint or request to the board.
   Resident Karen Callahan sent The Cranbury Press the letter she originally sent to the board Sept. 27.
   In her letter, she referenced information from the National Center for Safe Routes, which is under the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration.
   Ms. Callahan said in her letter that, according to the NCSR, a road with a speed limit of over 30 mph is considered “hazardous.”
   Old Trenton Road is 35 mph, Ms. Callahan pointed out.
   In addition, Ms. Callahan also included traffic volume statistics from the New Jersey Department of Transportation website.
   ”The school administration had indicated it took traffic volume into account during the decision-making process,” she wrote. “Since the actual statistics were not presented at the BOE meeting on Sept. 21, I would like to list them below for further reference.”
   According to those statistics, Old Trenton Road has an annual average daily traffic of 9,156 cars; other streets have a lower number of average daily traffic.
   Ancil Davidson Road has 2,407 cars per day, Cranbury Neck Road has 3,065, Dey Road has 7,414, and Main Street has 1,783, she said.
   Ms. Callahan also said students at bus stops have no barrier from traffic.
   ”I know it’s been explained to parents that the bus itself acts as a barrier between the children and the cars on Old Trenton. However, this only applies to when the children are loading the bus. As a parent, I avoid placing my children in dangerous situations.”
   She added, “Standing on Old Trenton Road with numerous cars zooming by is a dangerous situation.”
   Resident Debbie Bond said in response to the board’s decision, “They didn’t represent us, and that’s frustrating because we elected them.”
   Another resident, Daniel Kinney, in a statement Wednesday to The Cranbury Press, said the residents are disappointed with the board’s decision and still feel the new bus stops are less safe.
   He also added the board’s communication with the parents has been frustrating.
   ”Rather than a productive dialogue with parents to consider alternative perspectives on a complex issue, the process from day one has felt like a rubber stamp of the original decision,” he said.
   He added, “The report presented by the transportation subcommittee at last night’s meeting was one-sided, echoing Joyce Picariello’s original position directly and not even addressing the merits of other issues — including traffic volume, traffic speed and accident history — among others.
   ”The fact that the board proceeded as they did in the face of this clear expression and voted unanimously to maintain the administration’s decision leaves us all feeling railroaded, very frustrated and not represented by the current board.”