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Youth leaders ask for answers to bus transit issues

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District 5 youth leaders hosted a forum Thursday at Sacramento High School to discuss student concerns about bus transit issues, including frequency of key bus routes during student commute times and improved safety on buses and at bus stops.

The students’ concerns stem from a proposed Regional Transit renewal plan which outlines recommended changes to bus and light rail service over the next five years.

High school students in the Sacramento City Unified School District do not receive bus service from the district, so they must rely on private transportation, walking, or the Regional Transit system of buses and light rail, Sacramento City Unified School District Superintendent Jonathan Raymond said Thursday.

More than 50 students, parents and community members attended the forum to hear the discussion between public officials and student leaders from Sacramento Area Congregations Together, a faith-based community organization made up of congregations and schools.

Raymond, Sacramento City Councilman Jay Schenirer, and Regional Transit CEO Mike Wiley sat as a panel at the forum to answer prepared student questions.

The students listed four key concerns for the panel to consider: frequency/timeliness of bus service, safety and cleanliness of buses, improving bus stops with benches and overhead covers, and youth input into future planning.

The student activists determined the key concerns after conducting surveys of more than 400 students from Sacramento High School, McClatchy High School, American Legion, Hiram Johnson High School and Sacramento City College, according to a Thursday press release.

According to the survey, 75 percent of students surveyed said the punctuality of buses was their top complaint.

“When the bus is late, it makes us late to school,” youth leader Aujanae Dawson told the audience. “We get punished with detention for being late, even if it was the bus’ fault. Excessive tardies affect our grades.”

The students said they would like to see an increase in the frequency of Routes 51 and 68 – which are key for commuting students – and having bus Route 83 reinstated.

Route 83, which traveled along 14th Avenue in Oak Park, was suspended in June 2010 as one of many cost-saving measures RT implemented that year, Wiley said after the forum.

“The goal is to make public transportation more reliable and useful for youth using it for a mode of transportation to have access to an education,” ACT youth leader Ashley Owens said Thursday. “We want to encourage RT board members to vote in favor of our proposed solutions to current transportation issues.”

According to Wiley, the proposed renewal plan includes some of the recommendations discussed at the forum – but not all of them.

“We’re in a position to start adding services back,” Wiley said, “but it’s a matter of priorities. We can’t do everything we’d love to do. If we can identify enough demand, that will help us determine priority.”

According to the draft renewal analysis, Regional Transit plans to increase frequency of some bus routes from 30 minute spacing to 15 minutes, and extend light rail lines – including the first phase of the Green Line and the Blue Line extension to the south area.

The next Regional Transit hearing on proposed changes to bus routes is March 26.

The Regional Transit renewal plan will be voted on by the Sacramento Regional Transit board April 9.

The proposed plan can be found HERE.

Melissa Corker is a staff reporter for The Sacramento Pres. Follow her on Twitter @MelissaCorker.

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