First-hand experiences are always the most valuable, so I took the opportunity of my one-hour bus ride to write this article while experiencing the Buckingham Buses first-hand.
While not the most generous with leg-room, the buses provide quite a comfortable and enjoyable experience, as far as buses go. Having sat on rock -hard seats covered in gum and garbage back home with no air conditioning, Buckingham brought long bus rides to a new level for me (although admittedly my standards really were not that high).
An important issue of school transportation is the efficiency of transport and whether or not every student has a good way to get out of school. I have admittedly failed every time I’ve tried to synchronize my flights with the school bus schedule, but I cannot be the only one. Every break, there are students who are forced either to leave and skip the last day of school, stay behind for a day for a flight, or find an alternative (and often expensive) way to get home.
The buses currently provided by the school reach almost every destination required in the nearby area, yet less than half the kids at Groton take the bus to get home after vacations. On average, 80 students take the buses to Boston, another 80 to New York/Connecticut, and 10 to Manchester. This comes to a total of 170 (give or take 40) students, less than half of the student body. Even if you take away the 40 or so day students at the school, that still leaves over 150 kids scrambling to find their own way home, usually on their own cars driven by parents.
This system has clearly managed to serve the school well for a while now as classrooms aren’t half empty on the first day of term every time. Yet, the number of kids late to school isn’t ideal either.
So what’s the problem? Why does the transportation system given by the school have a more or less .500 record (a serviceable but not optimal percentage) when it comes to getting kids to and from school for holiday?
The biggest issue perhaps is the fact that there is only one bus time for any given holiday. The buses for each destination have one trip and one departure time. While this is fine for kids who have their buses take them directly home, those of us that need to catch a flight, train, or another bus have a slightly tighter schedule. Not every flight leaves after 2 pm, or comes in at a certain time. While booking another Buckingham for the handful of us who can’t find a suitable flight might seem like a bit of overkill, a quick ride in the toasters to Ayer train station could allow us to catch a flight slightly earlier in the afternoon, or save studentsa 10-hour wait at Logan Airportfor the bus to swing around at 7pm to go back to Groton.
Another problem is the fact that we have classes or exams on the same day we leave campus. I know the Deans aren’t going to be convinced to cancel those classes or exams anytime soon, but it isn’t too unreasonable for one dorm to be open for one more day. One bus could be sent to Boston early the next day for any remaining students who couldn’t book a bus the day before.
The current system works – for now. It serves the population which utilizes the service well as it is, clearly evidenced by the school successfully getting 99% of the student body back to campus on time and in one piece (although perhaps tired, jet-lagged and altogether unwilling to get back to the daily grind of Groton School). The status quo is serviceable, but these are pretty simple and easy improvements that can be made to make the transition from home to school even smoother for everybody, being the bus-y people that we are.