RTS to No Longer Bus Rochester City School Students; Move Means 144 Layoffs

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- More than 1 million people ride on a RTS bus each year, with some going through the downtown transit center. Time and time again, riders saw student violence. 

"Frankly, the student related incidents have been frustrating and disappointing," Regional Transit Service CEO Bill Carpenter said.

Carpenter said it's time the transit service cuts ties with the school district. When the contract between RTS and the school district is up in June, Carpenter said it won't be renewed.

The announcement came as a shock to district leaders.

"It's very frustrating for us to now have to figure out how we are going to get our kids where they need to be," Rochester Board of Education President Van White said.

The end of the 37-year partnership means the district needs to find transportation for around 9,500 students. White said he understands the predicament students' behavior put RTS in; however, he wishes the restructuring of student transportation could have been completed. It would have resulted in about 3,000 fewer students being transferred through the transit center.

Superintendent Bolgen Vargas said there aren't enough yellow buses to transport students. He continues by stating:

“The abrupt decision by RTS to end 37 years of service makes it exceptionally difficult for the District to provide transportation for our secondary students this summer and in the next school year. We will have no other choice but to provide our students daily passes to access the public transportation system. This model is currently used in Buffalo and many other urban centers with great success.”

Mayor Lovely Warren, who's been advocating for RTS to stop busing students, had this to say:

"Safety is our primary concern for all of our residents, especially for our children who deserve safe passage to and from school. We are all committed to providing a safer, more vibrant community and an educational environment that allows our children, families and residents to thrive."

For some riders, the announcement is great news.

"Honestly, it's not a shock to me, considering all the violence and ignorance downtown," Brandon Burrows, of Rochester, said.

"As being an older adult, it can be intimidating at times because you never know when you're going to be caught up in a situation," Elmyra Crawford-Brown, of Rochester, said.

While riders sit more comfortably, there's bound to be a bumpy road ahead. As of now, 144 jobs are expected to be cut, and school district leaders may have to redirect some of the $800 million budget into transportation.

Carpenter said RTS plans to help with the transition process for all as much as possible.

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