Stuyvesant Parents Organize Private Bus Service for Students
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With in-person school starting, a group of Stuyvesant parents organized a private coach bus service with S&J Tour & Bus Inc. (S&J) to offer an alternative commute option for students. The service is not affiliated with Stuyvesant or the Parents’ Association.
Stuyvesant parent and coordinator of the private bus service Ting Yu was initially motivated to contact S&J to organize a safer commuting environment for students. “Last year, we encountered a lot of Asian hate in the subway, and most parents are worried about the safety of our kids, especially when they have to wake up early in the mornings [to take the subway] and sometimes late in the afternoon,” Yu said. “In Stuyvesant, there is a large percentage of students who are Asian.”
Currently, the S&J bus service offers three routes for students living in Queens and one for those in Brooklyn. These routes run from Little Neck, Forest Hills, Flushing, and Sheepshead Bay to Stuyvesant. Students are picked up from one of these lines based on a common stop in their route and all students in the same route are picked up and dropped off at the same location. “It depends on the needs of the parents [and] students signing up,” a representative from the S&J Tour & Bus Company said. “For the number of students, we have a variety sized pod, different sized buses, so really it depends on the needs of each route that will affect the different sizes we use.” The Queens line currently services an estimated number of 70 students while the Brooklyn line services approximately 10.
The bus service registration is open to all Stuyvesant students and currently costs $4,850. Parents must sign the S&J’s Terms of Agreement, which states that services are non-refundable after July 10, 2021, so that if school closure occurs, refunds are offered based on the number of three-month periods of the school year left when bus service cannot be offered due to remote learning.
To assemble a private bus service, Stuyvesant parents obtained contact information from parents of Bronx High School of Science, which has an established private bus service for students for several years. “When we first started, it was one of the Asian parents who contacted the Bronx Science parents, and we got some of the bus companies’ information and started calling [them],” Yu said.
The morning bus consists of multiple stops with varying arrival times. “There are usually around [five to six] bus stops per bus. The bus arrives at the first stop at 6:12 a.m. in the morning,” sophomore Rainie Sun said in an e-mail interview.
For the afternoon, S&J has a fixed pickup time at 3:50 p.m.—15 minutes after the end of 10th period—but also provides limited accommodations to students who leave later due to extracurriculars. “[The company sends] out a [survey] every weekend to see what times people prefer the late bus to come at. For instance, this week, the majority of voters voted for either 6:00 p.m. or 6:30 p.m., so S&J settled at 6:15,” sophomore Swumon Chow said in an e-mail interview.
For those riding the bus, many feel that S&J provides a better environment for their daily commute than other methods of transit. “It's safer than public transportation, and it's very comfortable to sit in, and I have made a few friends through the bus who live in my neighborhood as well,” Janine, who preferred not to disclose her last name, said in an e-mail interview.
Since the organization is independent of Stuyvesant, S&J is not responsible for lateness due to being late to the bus station or lost items left on the bus. Because of this, those taking the bus are concerned about being late to school. “[The bus] gets me to school and I won’t get stranded,” sophomore David Cai Liang said. “[But] to be honest, I dislike the [private bus system] because who is the liability? It’s us, the students. We’re late. We’re still liable for it at the end of the day.”
To prepare for such potential lateness, parents have been working with the administration to establish an official code to excuse any lateness caused by the bus. “[Director of Family Engagement] Dina [Ingram] already said there will be a special code if kids will be late,” Yu said.
Others are also concerned about the lack of time efficiency in taking the bus compared to taking public transportation. “The worst thing about taking the S&J is coming home because [...] there’s so much traffic on the road,” sophomore Aiden Tan said. “Most of the time it takes two hours to get home, while on the subway it takes 40 minutes to an hour.”
Some also note the social limitations of taking the private bus. “There is something irreplaceable about the freedom that comes with taking public transportation with your friends,” Janine said. “I really hope I'm able to experience that at some point during my high school career.”
Additionally, the timing of the bus after school has also conflicted with some students’ priorities in participating in after-school activities. “The scheduling [...] definitely affects my mom's perception of how much time she wants me to be spending on extracurriculars, so I have to find a way around that so I can participate in all of the extracurriculars that are important to me,” Janine said.
While students are currently taking the S&J bus service, many are relying on it temporarily and hope to transition to taking public transportation in the future. “I have no idea if this bus service is permanent or not, but I'm probably only taking it this year because of the pandemic,” Sun said. “Next year, I'm probably going to take the subway/MTA buses again because the price for taking a private bus service is pretty steep.”