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CPS unable to salvage dedicated student bus routes in meeting with SORTA

CPS wants the routes restored. SORTA reiterated its stance on Tuesday that it just doesn’t have the drivers.
Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 7:00 PM EDT
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CINCINNATI (WXIX) - A last-ditch effort by Cincinnati Public Schools to keep dedicated, nonstop bus routes for its students came up empty on Tuesday.

CPS officials requested the meeting with the Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority two weeks after SORTA announced it could no longer provide “XTRA” routes for students due to a driver shortage currently numbering 35 drivers.

The XTRA routes will be eliminated in favor of new public Metro routes created with student ridership data in mind. Students will be given regular Metro passes to ride the new routes.

Historically, around 13,000 CPS students have relied on the XTRA routes to get to school.

District officials and SORTA leaders came out of Tuesday’s meeting with a statement that reads:

“SORTA and CPS board representatives and top executives met today to discuss the next steps for high school transportation. Due to a bus driver shortage, XTRA routes will not be restored prior to the start of school. However, both organizations are committed to student safety. As a result, a working group will be pulled together to conduct a school-by-school review and consider adjustments that may need to be made before August 19.”

CPS board members have said SORTA pulled the rug out from under them so close to classes starting on Aug. 19―a notion SORTA officials flatly deny.

“It is unfair to expect schools, students and families to have full awareness of, much less understand, such an abrupt change announced only a few weeks prior to the beginning of school. It has resulted in chaos,” CPS Board member Eve Bolton wrote in a letter to SORTA last week.

Interim Superintendent Tianay Amat on Monday penned another letter, this one to Cincinnati City Manager Paula Boggs Muething and Police Chief Eliot Isaac, asking for their advocacy on the issue.

“We are concerned [with] the limited time prior to the start of school and want to alert you to the safety concerns associated with more than 13,000 preteens and teens scheduled to ride regular Metro routes to and from school each weekday,” Amat wrote.

No word on whether Isaac or Muething will act on Amat’s letter.

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