In rapidly suburbanizing Loudoun County, Virginia, west of Washington, D.C., parents are up in arms about a substantial cutback in school bus service. According to an article written by Michael Alison Chandler and published in yesterday’s Washington Post, about 4,000 students who used to ride school buses will be expected to find another way to class in the coming school year. We need to reduce the budget, say county officials.
If I were a parent in Loudoun County, I’d be upset, too. Growth there has essentially been a leapfrog pattern of automobile-dependent sprawl since the county began transforming from farmland to new suburbs a couple of decades ago. It’s the usual mix of wide arterial roads, connectors with no sidewalks, and randomly placed cul-de-sac subdivisions.
School sprawl has been part of the pattern, too, with large campuses placed at a distance from most students and their families. Check out the locations of three Loudoun County schools on the satellite map above: they have all been placed on former farmland just beyond the reach of sprawling new subdivisions. And please don’t think I’m picking on Loudoun County; this is the case all over suburban America.
For all sorts of reasons, we’d be better off without this growth pattern at all but, since it exists, school bus service is essential, particularly for working parents. (It is also more environmentally efficient than parents’ taking kids to school in separate vehicles.) As recently as the 1970s, a majority of school kids walked or biked to school. Today, almost entirely because of sprawl, fewer than 15 percent do.
(From The Atlantic Cities)