It’s Time to Solve the School Bus Problem

The East Hampton School Board will want to carefully consider a residents’ group apparent offer of $2 million to help the district buy a parcel on Springs-Fireplace Road for a school bus parking and service facility. It should also try to be more flexible about the bus depot question in general; so far the board has been somewhat inexplicably attached to a plan for a site it already owns at Cedar Street.

People who live on Cedar Street and in its vicinity are right to be concerned about the board’s desire to build a new bus facility there. The street, a shortcut around East Hampton Village, is already overburdened with traffic, and it is narrow. Unlike Route 114, where the district’s buses are serviced and parked on rented commercial property, and even Long Lane, where the high school’s main entrance is, Cedar Street does not have shoulders. Adding bus traffic at its intersections with Robert’s Lane and Hand’s Creek Road all the way to North Main Street would not be a particularly good idea.

Springs-Fireplace Road, where town-owned property is under consideration for a bus depot, should be carefully studied, although, to be honest, it is not all that much better. 

The depot would be on a busy stretch of road that is already overloaded with commercial traffic and poorly designed development. Nevertheless, it would be preferable and have far fewer significant ripple effects than the Cedar Street site.

One option that has not had enough attention is whether the district might find a way to put the bus entrance and exit on the Long Lane side of the high school campus. Certainly there is enough land for this, and the road is already used daily by buses during the school year. This might require a traffic light or four-way stop at Long Lane and Stephen Hand’s Path, but, given that the area is already difficult to navigate, some kind of solution is probably called for.

Almost the whole bus problem can be traced to previous school board decisions. Led by the district superintendent some years ago, the board chose to take over student transportation from a private company without really exploring private bus service obtained through competitive bidding. The situation has in some ways been a comedy of errors ever since.

If the board is wise about it now and tries to work with the community rather than butt heads with it, a solution good for everyone is possible. It will take work, however, and require that every board member keep an open mind about how to get from here to real, long-term answers.