Hundreds of thousands of parents are being urged to overturn the axing of many school buses in Auckland.
This follows a decision by Auckland Transport to reduce dedicated school buses and make schoolchildren catch regular public transport, leading to some parents pulling their children off buses and driving them to school.
A letter is being sent to 521 schools across the city with hundreds of thousands of pupils asking parents to make submissions on a transport plan to reinstate the previous system.
There are not enough buses. They are going to the wrong places at the wrong time
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Penny Tucker, a school parent who has organised the letter, said AT had made a lot of improvements to bus services going to places that people actually want to go, but it is not working for kids.
"There are not enough buses. They are going to the wrong places at the wrong time. Full buses are driving past kids trying to get home. The school buses that are left are oversubscribed and inadequate. Outcome: more kids are being transported in cars," she said.
After a new bus service was dumped on central city schools halfway through the year, a survey was prepared to get feedback from parents, which received about 3400 responses that were overwhelmingly negative.
One parent from Albany said it took two hours on public transport for her child to travel to Rangitoto College and 15 minutes by car.
"I know of at least five other sets of parents in my child's year who live in the same area and are having to drive their child into school every day," the unnamed parent said.
Many parents raised safety issues with reports of kids being pushed around, spat on, stopped from getting off buses, harassed at transfer points, robbed, left behind and dropped off at weird places, Tucker said.
One unnamed Henderson parent said her daughters would have to leave home in the dark in the mornings to catch two buses to go to Auckland Grammar Girls in the city.
"I'm not willing to have my daughters roaming the streets at those unsafe hours with so many incidents of drive-by abductions, attempted abductions, sexual assaults and violent assaults recorded in the area," the parent said in the survey.
Tucker said as a courtesy, AT was sent the survey before a "dolefully unproductive" meeting where a "very charming AT whiteboard warrior explained that managing buses is actually quite tricky and expensive".
Since the meeting, Tucker has organised for a letter going to 521 schools, urging the schools' transport co-ordinators and parents to make submissions on a review of the Regional Public Transport Plan.
"If schools and parents want any chance of reinstating the system which worked so well, then the only way to do that is by amending the regional transport plan. This is the only way to get kids - particularly the little ones - out of cars, into buses and safely where they need to go," she said in the letter.
An AT spokesman said the council body would encourage anyone with an interest in the Regional Public Transport Plan to provide feedback when it goes out for public consultation in a couple of weeks. The consultation will run for a month.
He said the policy for school buses is set out in the plan and said AT will "provide safe public transport access for school students to and from their zoned and/or nearest school".
AT is going through the feedback and ideas in the survey and will begin a thorough review of school bus services next year, the spokesman said.
In August, AT defended its attempts to axe school buses, saying it can cost an extra $50,000 to $100,000 a year to operate an extra bus often only needed on a single school route.
As part of a series of new bus networks being rolled out across the city, AT said it had to assess whether or not school bus services should continue or change.
In some cases, public routes were found to be better for schools, some of which had been increased to cater for higher demand around school times. In other cases, more school bus services had been provided, AT said.
For details of the school bus campaign email: firstname.lastname@example.org