School board wants to can the van

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Tina Comeau
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Gary Hudson, owner of Hut’s Transit, stands next to one of his 15-passenger vans while it is parked on Main Street. He’s looking to offer a service to transport students downtown on their lunch hour but the school board isn’t keen on his plan.

 TINA COMEAU PHOTO

By Tina Comeau

THE VANGUARD

NovaNewsNow.com

 

The operator of Hut’s Transit has applied to the province’s Utility and Review Board (URB) requesting it to allow him to add a bus stop at the high school on Forest Street, to provide students with transportation to the downtown over their lunch hour.

But the Tri-County Regional School Board will be opposing the application when it comes up at a Feb. 5 URB hearing in Yarmouth.

Senior board management says this is because students would be transported in a 15-passenger van, which is a mode of transportation the school board is not allowed to transport students in.

But Gary Hudson, the operator of Hut’s Transit, says there is a difference between travelling long distances on a highway and driving a few minutes on town streets. He questions which is the safer option for students who don’t have other transportation.

“What’s safer?” he asks. “Those kids walking the streets going downtown and being hit by a car, or them going in a vehicle to get downtown safely and back to school on time?”

This opinion is also shared by some board members who, at the board’s Tuesday, Jan. 8, monthly meeting, didn’t fully support the board’s opposition to the URB application.

“The trip is probably one or two kilometres in distance from the Yarmouth high school to downtown,” said Andy Baxter, who understands the concerns with 15-passenger vans and transporting students on the highways over long distances.

But from Forest Street to Main Street?

“I just don't see the issue,” said Baxter.

Board member Ron Hines echoed this.

However Steve Stoddart, the board’s director of operations, said the board has to take into consideration the potential that there could be an accident while students are being transported in one of these vans.

That led to several board members questioning whether the board is liable for students who leave the school property on their lunch hour. The general feeling was no, but a motion was approved to seek a legal opinion.

Meanwhile, board superintendent Lisa Doucet said the board’s concerns are valid. “We feel as a board we have a responsibility to put our voice out there and say that we do have concerns with our students travelling during the school day in a vehicle that we would not be permitted to transport students in.”

She said the board’s position has nothing to do with wanting to prevent students from going downtown for lunch, or the impact this has on the school’s cafeteria, although on the latter point Hudson says he isn’t so sure.

Doucet said it’s strictly a safety issue.

The 15-passenger vans are not considered to be a safe mode of travel for students. Memories of a 2008 accident involving a Bathurst, N.B. boys' basketball team, which resulted in eight fatalities, are still fresh when discussions about these vans are held. The five-year anniversary of that tragic accident was Jan. 12.

But Hudson says this is a different situation.

Hut’s Transit had been providing rides to students earlier in the school year until it was forced to stop. Hudson was transporting 12 to 22 students a day, meaning sometimes he had to use two vans. He charged $2 for a round trip.

Hudson was approached by students and businesses last spring who were concerned over the distance of the school from the downtown. He spoke to some of the school’s administrators before the school year began and they were in favour of the transportation idea. But Doucet says the board was never asked for its opinion.

Hudson says the matter could have been resolved differently. Instead, he claims complaints were made to the URB about what he was doing.

“People can’t understand when somebody is trying to do something good in their community,” he says. “If the businesses don’t get these kids downtown at lunch time they’re not going to be in business.”

Hudson is asking parents who support the service he is willing to provide to write letters that he can present to the URB at the Feb. 5 hearing, which takes place at 1 p.m. at the Rodd Grand Hotel. “If parents don’t have an issue with it, I can’t understand why the school board would,” he says.

Hut’s Transit operates two 15-passenger vans. Both are equipped with seatbelts, they’re regulated and inspected by the province and they’re equipped with snow tires in the winter.

“I understand the safety issue, safety is a concern for everybody, especially me,” says Hudson. “My drivers are trained. They know how to drive, how to load vehicles. We’ve been doing this for 17 years.”

 

 

Organizations: Utility and Review Board, Tri-County Regional School Board, Rodd Grand Hotel

Geographic location: Forest Street, Yarmouth

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Recent comments

  • Ruthie Allen-Hamilton
    January 16, 2013 - 08:46

    This flabbergasts me, as do a lot of other things in this season of my life. I question how the School Board can even think that they have any control over what students do on their noon break. Mr. Hudson is providing a service to our kids, rather than having them "walk the streets". I can only imagine the condition of some of the cars they travel back and forth to school in ..... Will the Board next be tellîng them they can't use them because of accidents etc? I can understand the concern and the "rules" when it comes to school functions, but this is their noon break, for heaven's sake!!! I say, "good for you, Mr. Hudson!" Let's keep this service going!

  • RP
    January 15, 2013 - 18:09

    this seems more a profit issue than a safety concern. the food in the caf is not tasty and is over priced and small protioned. it is not difficult to see that the superintendent is concerned about dollars which as lost when hut's transit takes the youth downtown to eat. Hut's Transit, a reliable and valuable staple for yarmouth is only assisting those who cannot drive downtown themselves and don't have time to walk. people are tardy and late all the time and I personally am happy that Hut's Transit considers the youth of YCMHS and think that to make an issue and try to deface a company who is reputable in our small town is petty and unimportant. It's a shame that such trivial things can hurt a business all because it's giving back to downtown businesses instead of a few dollars for the school, whose priorities should be education not profit.

  • Tim Cottreau
    January 15, 2013 - 11:06

    It's public transit. Last time I checked, the board has nothing to do with that. Are they also inspecting all of the cars the kids drive to and from the school each day? We should be celebrating the idea that someone actually wants to expand a service in our town, not finding thinly veiled ways to keep the kids eating at a cafeteria they hate.

  • Larry Boudreau
    January 14, 2013 - 17:30

    It would seem that once again the Tri-County School Board has decided to focus it's own myopic vision on what is best for students without any consideration being given to the use of their collective common sense. The issue of using a bona vide, licensed, professional public transportation system has absolutely nothing to do with the NB tragedy and the points raised in that regard are moot. The maximum speed for any vehicle in town is 50 kph, the distances travelled insignificant and the benefits to students (TCRSB motto "Students First" notwithstanding) far outweigh the reasoning and rationaliztions of the Board. Let's hope reason prevails and Mr. Hudson has a satisfactory hearing in front of the URB on Feb. 5th..

  • Rose Nickerson
    January 14, 2013 - 17:29

    I understand how the Tri-County school Board feels, with such a tragic incident in New Brunswick, however, I see no problem with what Hutts Transit has put forth in assisting local business still get students out there to them, eating what they want opposed to perhaps not eating at all, or walking and again being late for class. Not many High School kids will brown bag it anymore. However, if safety is an issue, than it is time to look into all Tri County buses to have a seatbelt available to every passenger.

  • Shelley Doucette
    January 14, 2013 - 13:47

    I remember being a youth attending YCHMS and going six or eight people in a small car with no seatbelts for lunch. Considering that the van is a form of public transportation during a public lunch break from school I don't understand the issue. The schools are not contracted to use taxis to transport the students yet if four students choose to call a cab and go for lunch it wouldn't be questioned. At the minimal least the students would be going for their public lunch off school property in a safer manner than at present. Not to mention they would get back to classes on time and not either affect attendance with tardiness or worse yet cutting school or individual periods all together. We are not talking about elementary children here who stay at school for lunch but the youths of our community we are raising as adults to use good judgement. Therefore where has our personal good judgement seem to have gone. Remember this is a time frame where the students are permitted to leave school property and find their own way to lunch. It is not technically school board time.