Pittsburgh Public School students, guardians given free Port Authority passes after bus driver shortage | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh Public School students, guardians given free Port Authority passes after bus driver shortage

Pittsburgh Public Schools is facing a shortage of school bus drivers. While school was initially set to start on Wed., Aug. 25, it will now begin Wed., Sept. 8, as the school system was short 426 drivers as of Aug. 10. The shortage translates to a lack of 11,000 seats needed to transport students.

One measure the school district is taking to fill these gaps is teaming up with Port Authority of Allegheny County to expand student ridership by about 1,028 students. These new riders, along with one guardian to accompany them, will each be given a free Port Authority weekly pass so they can get practice catching the bus, exiting the bus, and notifying the operator of their stop.

PPS announced this program on Mon., Aug. 16 in its PPS Community Talk Back: Transportation and Back-to-School. Weekly passes have been distributed to sixth through eighth grade students at Pittsburgh Obama and Sci-Tech, sixth through 12th graders at Pittsburgh Milliones, and sixth graders at Pittsburgh CAPA. Seventh and eighth grade CAPA students already currently use Port Authority.

Students attending non-PPS schools, such as Bishop Canevin High School, Ellis School, Environmental Charter School, Manchester Charter School, the Neighborhood Academy, Propel Charter Schools and Winchester Thurston, will also move to taking Port Authority.

The increase in Port Authority ridership among students will eliminate the need for 38 school buses. Currently, approximately 5,000 PPS students use Port Authority buses to get to and from school with Connect Cards issued by PPS.

The school district is also increasing its walk zone, which has turned about 800 students from bus riders to walkers and has eliminated the need for 22 school buses. This change has concerned some parents, particularly those with younger children who must now walk along major roads to get to and from school.

To continue closing the gap, PPS encourages parents to “Release Your Seat” if their child or children will not need school-provided transportation to get to school. The school system is also looking for new bus drivers who have “a valid driver’s license, excellent driving skills, and an outstanding driving record.”