Officials explain need for lighted bus stops
By the end of the 2011-2012 school year, officials hope to have every bus stop lighted in Cape Coral to increase the safety of students waiting for the bus to pick them up each morning.
Only one community member attended a town hall meeting that was held at the Cape Coral Library on Saturday by Council Member Kevin McGrail and School Board Member Don Armstrong to inform the public about the issue and the progress that has already been made.
McGrail said the plan began four months ago when a single mother sent him an email expressing her concern about dropping her daughter off at the bus stop on her way to work while it was dark outside.
“She had no option,” McGrail said. “My heart went out to her.”
Once he began digging into how many bus stops were lit in the Lee County School District he contacted Armstrong to see what they could do to fix the problem.
“I was highly encouraged by the response from the Lee County School District,” McGrail said, along with the support he received from Armstrong.
McGrail said it was time to stop trading convenience for safety at bus stops.
“Convenience should not trump safety,” he said.
Out of the 15,000 bus stops in Lee County, approximately 3,750 were originally lit. Through coordination with the city of Cape Coral, the Lee County School District and the Lee County Electric Cooperative, the number lighted stops in Cape Coral increased from 30 to 80 percent without costing the city or district a penny. There are approximately 5,000 bus stops in Cape Coral.
McGrail said the area south of Pine Island Road obtained the greatest number of lit bus stops and the area north of Pine Island road still needs attention.
Bus drivers got onboard with the plan and did research while they were out on their routes, jotting down which stop had a light pole and which did not, along with what stops would be a good option in installing a light if needed.
Armstrong said some of the bus stops moved four or five blocks from the original location so the students could be in a lighted area. He said by moving and combining bus stops there are more students at one bus stop, also increasing safety.
“Safety in numbers,” Armstrong said. He said he feels more comfortable when he knows there are between five to 10 students at one bus stop instead of one.
Transportation Director Robert Morgan said by combining bus stops, in theory, will decrease the number of buses that have to run and save the district money. The school district currently operates 675 buses to transport 50,000 students.
Morgan said district transportation is funded for the number of students that occupy the bus.
The bus stops that remain unlit will have to have a pole installed at a cost of $200, plus a ten-year contract and cost of electricity with the Lee County Electric Cooperative.
McGrail said he hopes to obtain grant money through Safe Routes to School to implement the light poles that are needed.
“The more money we can get from grant money the better,” McGrail said.
McGrail hopes sister cities will follow in their footsteps and provide safe lighted bus stops for the students.
“This is a problem that isn’t unique to our area,” he said.
The second town hall meeting will be held on June 18 at the Northwest Regional Library off Chiquita Boulevard from 10 am. until noon.