Guest Blogger Jenny: Forget The Carpool. We Need A Bus.

Anyone who’s ever had any sort of school commute understands the intrinsic value of a carpool. It’s the well-oiled support machine that keeps your schedule running and keeps you from revving up and down L.A.’s heinous freeways all week long (I’ve written about the love I have for my carpool before). But sometimes, circumstances beyond your control render the carpool useless. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Cal Trans!

 

Seriously, Cal Trans is about to ruin my life, and the life of every other school commuting parent heading toward the Westside (which is almost all of them). The scheduled widening of the 405 freeway, along with the closure of the Mulholland Bridge, is about to make the east/west commute into one nasty and serious commitment.  Bring water and food, because if you decide to brave that commute come this August, you just might need it.

 

There’s a bunch of schools up on that stretch of Mulholland Drive, just over that soon to be defunct bridge and the 405. Schools with kids aplenty, like Milken, Curtis, Berkeley Hall, Mirman (Anna’s school), and Westland.  The commute was already pretty bad if you came north up the 405, since the Mulholland off ramp has been closed for a while, creating way more traffic on your only other option, Sepulveda.

 

But now, well, it’s going to be virtually impossible to get there. With the bridge closed, traffic will be forced onto some sort of serpentine route through a hapless Valley neighborhood (I tried this route once, just for kicks, and got lost. It does not bode well). Imagine all those cars snaking through some back route to Mulholland, complete with stop signs and Children Playing signs. Those peaceful neighborhood residents will hate us, and we will curse our sorry vehicular existences.

 

So you can imagine my delight when Mirman proposed a bus route convenient to Eastsiders like us.  Possibly shared with Curtis, it would pick our kids up close by and roll through the Westside. Our children will do homework, talk, possibly snooze, and do whatever else bus riding children do until arrival at their respective schools. This means no commute. This means no more sitting on the 101, sweating the time. This means dismantling the coffee IV drip system currently installed in the car. The bus is the answer.

 

If we can get enough parents (and thus, kids) on board.

 

And that’s a big if. Buses, you see, are pretty pricey. You might fork out another couple grand, on top of the tuition, for a twice daily bus route. That’s a lot of money. On the other hand, time is money, and without the bus, time will be lost, never to return. Plus, the gas prices are so insane these days, you could end up spending that much in commuting fuel costs anyway. And let’s not forget that “green” issue, since all those extra cars on the freeway add up to way more emissions than a single bus (I’ve often pondered this while staring at the idling SUVs waiting in the carpool line).

 

So I’ve done my due diligence on the subject, and went even further: I wrote a very persuasive email missive to every relevant parent on our school carpool list. It was a rational plea for bus usage, and I used every bit of my direct response advertising copywriting skill to make the bus as irresistible a transportation option as has ever rolled the L.A. streets.  I charmingly argued and cajoled. All the parents need to do, I wrote, is fill out the online form that merely indicates interest in the bus. It’s not a firm commitment, just an interest. Please. For all that is holy.

 

The due date for this online form was June 10. I still have no idea if our area made the cut for the route. I hope so, because otherwise, it’s going to be one long school year indeed.

 

 

Jenny Heitz has worked as a staff writer for Coast Weekly in Carmel, freelanced in the South Bay, and then switched to advertising copywriting. Her daughter started 4th grade at Mirman School this year. She previously attended 3rd St. Elementary School. Jenny has been published recently in the Daily News and on Mamapedia, The Well Mom, Sane Moms, Hybrid Mom, The Culture Mom and A Child Grows In Brooklyn. She now writes about gift ideas and products on her blog, Find A Toad.
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Christina Simon: Los Angeles, California, United States I'm the mom of a daughter (12th grade) and a son (9th grade) who attend Viewpoint School in Calabasas. I live in Coldwater Canyon with my family and a rescue pit bull, Piper. Contact me at csimon2007@gmail.com

6 thoughts to “Guest Blogger Jenny: Forget The Carpool. We Need A Bus.”

  1. What time will kids need to get up? Should those schools start later? Seems like those kids will need to get up at the crack of dawn and are in for a long commute each way (over an hour?), regardless of whether by bus or carpool. Doesn't seem particuarly healthy, especially for elementary school kids. I never found it easy to do homework on long bus trips with lots of other kids. And often the experience is not particularly fun. I suspect kids will gravitate to portable DVD players or the like to ease the pain.

  2. You know, the kids already get up at 6 or 6:15 anyway, so I don't think that will make any difference. And the commute isn't "fun" no matter what, but I do find that kids tend to amuse themselves on a bus, or even nap. At this point, what matters is finding a balance for the family, and that balance might be reached through a bus situation (at least for us). Kids aren't allowed to bring electronics to school, so a DVD player isn't really a concern; many of these SUV moms already play DVDs in their cars anyway, so that's sort of a moot point.

  3. Won't the kids now have to get up at 5:30 a.m. or so if they already get up at about 6:00 a.m. and the commute time increases–regardless of whether they carpool or take a bus? My impression is that extra half hour to 45 minutes is pretty relevant, so it seems that these elite schools should think about starting later until this construction ends or traffic eases. At the least, this might provide an interesting opportunity to study the effect on sleep and commute time on academics and emotional well being: for example, will kids with less of a commute do better?
    Take a look at Nurture Shock by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, or work by JoAnne Deak. They talk about "large academic consequences of small sleep differences" and how it affects emotional well-being, ADHD, and obesity. Some comments from Nurture Shock: citing two large studies that showed "every fifteen minutes of sleep counts," the authors note one study's conclusion that "teens who received A's averaged about 15 minutes more minutes sleep than the B students, who is turn averaged 15 minutes more minutes than the C's, and so on" (p.33); "a slightly sleepy sixth-grader will perform in class like a mere fourth-grader. 'A loss of one our of sleep is equivalent to [the loss of] two years of cognitive maturation and development.'" (p.32); sleep deprivation during the week "can impair children's IQ as much as lead exposure." (p.33). You get the idea. Anyway, good luck in your efforts to improve the situation for everyone.

  4. This Mirman bus route is not a new idea. In fact, at the beginning of the 2010-2011 school year, there was a parent (or two) that did a terrific job in rallying support and interest in the bus route. It just so happened that there were not enough families in that immediate area at that time ti fill the bus. Now that there are new families in the area, along with the expanded bus route that includes more families in other areas, and of course the dreaded 405 project, the bus was only a matter of time. Job well done to the lady on the Mirman administration who worked for a couple of years on this project – her dedication and persistence is refreshing.

  5. Did that bus ever get organized? I am in Hancock Park and my child just got admitted to Mirman. I am looking into the transportation routes.

  6. Hi Rich,

    Congratulations! I think that there may be a bus from Hancock Park to Mirman, but you should check with the school. There may also be carpools you could join- Christina

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