Photo taken by an Oyster River student shows bus riders hanging over edge of the seat.

Parents claim buses too crowded

Photo shows the children on bus hanging out into the aisle, and that there are three children on many of the benches on the bus

Lisa Ringland of Oyster River is tired of taking her children to school.

According to Ringland, her two children should be busing to school from their home in Oyster River, but there’s no room on the bus, nor is there room for a good number of the kids who do board it.

“It’s three to a seat in there,” Ringland said. “We’ve tried to go through the proper channels (to address the situation) for years. We’ve called, emailed, called, emailed, gone in to speak with people directly, and nothing’s changed.”

A photograph taken by Ringland’s daughter, which Ringland says was taken on the morning of Sept. 29, clearly shows the children on her bus hanging out into the aisle, and that there are, in fact, three children on many of the benches on the bus.

Division 11.13 (3) of the B.C. Motor Vehicle Act (MVA) states that, “The driver of a school bus shall not (a) allow any person to ride on the school bus unless the person is comfortably and securely seated on a passenger seat or (b) move the bus or cause it to move unless he is reasonably certain that every passenger on the bus is comfortably and securely seated.”

Division 11.13 (1) of the Act states that, “a passenger is comfortably and securely seated (a) on a bench seat not equipped with seat belt assemblies if neither hip nor any hip of another person on the seat, extends beyond the edge of the seat cushion.”

Since, ‘can’t have a cheek hanging off the seat,’ isn’t a very specific answer to the issue of school bus capacity, Division 11.13 (2) of the act has another answer to the question: “The number of seating positions on a bench seat not equipped with seat belt assemblies equals the whole number obtained by dividing the seat width in millimetres by 381 and then, if a fraction forms part of the quotient, rounding down if it is less than half or up if it is half or more.”

The bench seats in the School District 72 (SD72) fleet, according to SD72 Public Relations Officer Jennifer Patrick, are 39.5 inches (or 1003.3 millimetres), meaning their individual capacity is three people.

Based on the definition provided within the Motor Vehicle Act of B.C., however, it appears in the photo provided to the Mirror that many of the children on the bus from Oyster River appear not to be “comfortably and securely seated,” which would be a clear violation of the MVA.

That is something that Kevin Patrick, Secretary/Treasurer for SD72, said does not happen.

“We put student safety as a priority,” Patrick said in response to the Mirror’s questions about capacity issues. “We are heavily monitored and adhere to all legal standards, including the MVA.”

He addressed the busing needs of the community by saying that ridership on the various routes are continually assessed throughout the year and adjustments are made according to those ridership levels.

He noted that at the beginning of the school year there tends to be an increase in numbers, and the “typical” number of students requiring bussing for a given route will be established after the first three or four weeks of classes.

He also said SD72 encourages any parents with concerns to come to them so that they can be addressed on an individual basis, which Ringland said she has done “for years,” to no avail.

In terms of Ringland’s current plan for her children’s transportation, she said the issue is not as significant for her as it is for many residents of the area, for whom the cost is prohibitive, though she would still prefer the overcrowding situation was addressed.

“I personally know nine parents that drove their kids to school last year rather than put them on the overcrowded bus. We’re basically solving their problem for them. But we’re in Oyster River, and not everyone out here dives a Jetta and gets decent enough gas milage to be able to do that.”