Wants To Know
School bus drivers idling on your dime?
Viewer wants to know why buses park, idle around town
Viewer wants to know why buses are parking, idling with no kids on board. Video by fox4now.comvideo
CAPE CORAL - Are Lee County school bus drivers wasting your tax dollars?
It's 3:30 p.m. and bus number 2765 has been idling at a Cape Coral gas station for at least five minutes.
The engines are running but there are no kids on board. Nearby, another driver says he's on a bathroom break.
"Well we get some bus drivers every day," said Texaco gas station manager Don Debono.
Debono says he sees buses parked out back all the time but says they usually have their engines turned off.
"I don't think I've ever seen them back there with the buses on," said Debono. "They usually turn them off when they do stop here."
A Fox 4 viewer e-mailed us pictures showing buses parked behind buildings and idling, according to the viewer, for at least 45 minutes.
We have no way to independently verify that. But the school district promises they will investigate those claims telling us buses are not supposed to idle anywhere.
District spokesperson Joe Donzelli did offer an explanation for why you might see buses parked around town.
"The time it would take for them to return to their home depot would be inefficient," said Donzelli.
"They would have to almost turn right around to start making other runs," he said. "It would be better for them to remain in the general geographic area in order to make their next runs and also allow the bus operator to take a break."
School board member Don Armstrong praised the transportation department but says whether buses sit empty, or go back to the bus barns between routes, is a waste of money.
"They're doing the best job that they can," said Armstrong, "but when they're sitting there in a parking lot idling they're wasting taxpayer dollars and I don't agree with that."
Armstrong says it's not the transportation department's fault. He puts the blame on school choice, which he says has created longer, more spread-out bus routes.
Right now, the allegations and photos you provided are just that - allegations and photos. We have no evidence whatsoever that the claims are accurate; however, staff is immediately looking into the situation to determine if the buses in question were allowed to idle for an extended period of time.
Our procedures are that we do not want our buses to idle - either while at school on the bus ramp or elsewhere in the community. There may be some situations where a bus may idle for a few minutes, depending upon the circumstances at the time and the needs of the students getting on or off a bus.
The reason buses will park at gas stations, etc. is that the time it would take for them to return to their home bus depot would be inefficient in that they would have to almost turn right around to start making other runs. It may be better for them to remain in the general geographic area in order to make their next runs and also allow the bus operator to take a break per the SPALC Contract.
Our goal is and will always be to provide safe transportation to and from school for all of our students. I would encourage you to share that if anyone has any information whatsoever, their first call should NOT be to your station but rather to the District so we can immediately start looking into the situation and address it appropriately.
MATT GRANT, Reporter