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According to St. Patrick High School Grade 10 student Taylor Dobbin the driver of the Route 1 city bus that arrives at her school and Sir John Franklin High School after school every day counts 20 students from each stop and tells the rest to wait. Above, Shayna Burton, left, Taylor Dobbin, Annmarie Senhouse and Kaitlynn Butt stand at the bus stop outside St. Patrick High School. - Katherine Hudson/NNSL photo

Left out in the cold

Katherine Hudson
Northern News Services
Published Friday, December 2, 2011

Number 21 isn't allowed on the bus.

St. Patrick High School Grade 10 student Taylor Dobbin said the driver of the Route 1 city bus that arrives at her school and Sir John Franklin High School after school every day counts 20 students from each stop and tells the rest to wait.

"He would only let a certain amount of people on at a time and we would always have to wait out in the cold and wait for the express bus to come," said Dobbin.

The Route 1 bus stops at every stop along its journey up Franklin Avenue to Finlayson Drive, down Range Lake Road and around Borden Drive.

The bus stops outside St. Pat's first, then Sir John, about 20 metres down 52 Avenue.

There are two express buses that pick up the remaining students at the stops in the afternoon; one going around Borden Drive to Wal-mart and the other riding along Finlayson Drive to Byrne Road. The express buses usually come five to 10 minutes after the first bus.

"The majority of students get on the second bus," said Kaitlynn Butt, Dobbin's friend and classmate.

Butt works for the YWCA's after-school program at the Mildred Hall and Range Lake North schools and said for her to get to her job on time, she has to be on that first bus.

"Every day he counts to 20, and if you're not on it, too bad," she said.

Classmate Shayna Burton said the students are customers too, having to pay for a bus pass like any other transit user. The discounted student transit rate for the school year is about $250.

"It's usually a crowd right outside the bus door too, so they just keep piling on to the bus. Then, out of nowhere, he's just like, 'Everyone else on the stairwell, get out of the bus'," said Burton.

"It's not packed, either. There are plenty of seats left."

Burton said there are usually a group of about 50 students outside her stop at St. Pat's, and that the majority of the students waiting are in grades 9 and 10 since the older students can drive.

Butt and her friends said the limited-seat system isn't a recent development; they have been dealing with it since they were in Grade 9 last year. Grade 9 is when students enter high school and are no longer able to ride the school buses.

Butt said on top of the limited number of students permitted on the first afternoon bus, the high schoolers must also swallow the fickle bus schedule.

"I think it would be better if they could find some way to be more efficient on time ... It really sucks because then you have to wait another five or 10 minutes for the next bus to come and since they vary in times, you can't even wait in the school until that time because you don't know if it's going to be two minutes early or five minutes late," she said.

Butt's mother, Kelly Pottinger, said she has heard her daughter complain about being late for work or having to walk in the cold to get there on time.

"Is the bus driver allowed to not let people on the bus? Are they getting discriminated against because they are students? Would he do the same thing to me if I got on at that stop?" she asked.

Coleen McDonald, principal of St. Pat's, said she hasn't heard of the issue.

Jim Doyle, manager of Cardinal Coachlines, said although the preference is for the students to use the express buses, he understands that some students need to get on the earlier Route 1 bus.

"There are some kids, though, that do have jobs after school or that don't go up as far as Byrne (Road) and they should be getting on the regular bus ... There's some other kids too that I think go to the pool and they should be on the regular bus because the express bus doesn't stop there," he said.

"All the kids have to be allowed to get on if they want to get on."

Doyle said Thursday that he spoken with the bus driver a few days before the seat rationing and was told the driver doesn't stop anyone from getting on. He said he would speak with the driver again.

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