GPTC pilot with Gary schools starts Friday
By Carole Carlson firstname.lastname@example.org/648-3154 September 12, 2012 4:42PM
Bre'Onda Ingram, (from left) Tacarra Holden, and Patricia Trambles, all seniors, clap their approval upon announcement that bus cards will be good for all student transportation, whether to school, jobs or shopping, during an assembly at Lew Wallace STEM Academy in Gary, Ind. Wednesday September 12, 2012. GPTC will be giving ride passes for students to take the bus to and from school. The passes, free for students and paid for by the school district, will be good for any student travels, including to jobs, shopping, and to other nearby cities. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 15, 2012 9:30AM
GARY — Keandre Malaine said his yellow school bus represented a reliable ride to school last year, taking him from his home in Miller to the Lew Wallace STEM Academy in Glen Park.
Malaine, a junior, said he doesn’t depend on the bus this year. “The regular bus rarely comes; it wasn’t like last year.”
On Friday, Malaine and other students across the city will pioneer a new way to get to school — in a Gary Public Transportation Corp. bus.
“It sounds better,” Malaine said after listening to a presentation from David Wright, GPTC marketing director.
“We are putting more buses on the street,” said Wright. “We’ve designated half-hour service for each school.”
The partnership with GPTC came about after the district’s contracted bus company, Illinois Central, drew the wrath of parents for failing to pick up children on time, or at all.
Catherine Dawson, parent liaison at Lew Wallace, said she’s received complaints about the bus service regularly. “It’s kind of bad. We get calls every morning saying the bus doesn’t show up.”
The school bus fiasco has been blamed on routing software and on a former employee who vindictively changed the routing system.
Illinois Central officials blamed the school district’s new three-tiered system and promised last week to resolve the problems by providing more buses.
Superintendent Cheryl Pruitt said she was disenchanted with Illinois Central and was exploring alternatives.
GPTC is the alternative with the district paying the city bus agency an unspecified amount for a 30-day trial period to provide free rides for secondary students along regular GPTC routes. The GPTC buses won’t drop off and pick up students at their schools, but Lew Wallace is on the regular GPTC “university” route so it will stop at the school.
When Wright announced to students they could ride GPTC buses any time, to other destinations, he got a round of applause.
Hakeen Allen, a senior, who lives at 49th Avenue and Ohio Street, said he’ll apply for a GPTC pass. He said he’ll pick up the city bus at 53rd Avenue and Broadway and he’ll get off at 45th Avenue and walk the four blocks to Lew Wallace.
Senior Darion Hightower said he’ll take the city bus, too, but he’s worried it will be crowded with other adult riders going to work or other destinations. “The regular bus doesn’t stop anymore,” he said of Illinois Central.
GPTC also made presentations to students at the West Side Leadership Academy, Wirt-Emerson Visual and Performing Arts, and Gary New Tech High School, based at the Gary Career Center.