Pittsburgh faculties cut back bus seat shortages as 10,000 college students return

Pittsburgh Public Schools reduced their daily transportation shortage by nearly 1,000 seats, district officials said Friday, before thousands of students were due to return to the buildings on Monday.

The district will welcome back more than 10,000 students on Monday as part of its gradual hybrid learning plan. More than 4,000 students returned on April 6 and another 5,000 on April 26.

Earlier this month, however, the district announced that May 3rd would be a challenge for transportation: a severe shortage of bus drivers meant the district did not have enough free seats for everyone. Officials predicted a shortage of more than 1,300 seats a day.

On Friday, Megan Patton, director of student transportation, said the seat shortage had dropped to 309 on Monday and Tuesday and to 329 on Thursday and Friday.

“Seat pitch decreased due to the reassessment of our current routes, increasing the number of students driving the port authority and the number of students releasing their seats,” Patton said.

Approximately 565 students will leave with the port authority on Monday, 1,779 will go to school and 244 families have given up their places. In addition, nearly 8,000 students chose to stay away for the rest of the year, officials said. More than 1,700 students will use local transport on Monday.

Patton said the gap is expected to narrow further on May 10 the following week. From then on, the district will partner with the Pittsburgh Transportation Group, which will provide three additional buses to fill the current seat gap. Each bus can accommodate up to 30 students.

“We tried to be very creative,” said Errika Fearby Jones, chief of staff. Prior to partnering with the Pittsburgh Transportation Group, the district reached out to numerous other community organizations, including local colleges and universities, for solutions.

But the district will continue to address the driver shortage long term, Patton said. She said earlier this month that PPS would need to hire 200 drivers by May 3, and while recent measures have seen that number decline, the district still needs around 350 drivers by the fall.

“We need about 350 drivers for the fall so that everything runs smoothly and we can offer the services where we want them,” said Patton. And before the end of this school year: “We would need around 100 drivers to provide the service to every student who is about to return.”

Teghan Simonton is a contributor to Tribune Review. You can contact Teghan at 724-226-4680, tsimonton@triblive.com, or on Twitter.

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