People who spend any time in New York City are quick to inure themselves to the vicissitudes of everyday life. But even the hard-of-heart have found it difficult to ignore the personal accounts of the thousands of families that have been dislocated by the decision of Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union to initiate a school bus strike this past Wednesday. Some 8,800 drivers and matrons, whose incomes average about $35,000 per year, went on strike, shutting down about 70 percent of the City’s 7,700 school bus routes.
The dispute centers on New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s effort to introduce a system of competitive bids that would allow the City to find some lower-price providers. As the AP reports, there is a lot of running room for financial improvement because of the grim statistics of the schools’ position. New York City has 1.1 million public schoolchildren—which means that a citywide operation is likely to suffer from major diseconomies of scale. Of these students, some 152,000 ride yellow school buses.
In their ranks are 54,000 children who suffer from a variety of disabilities. Many of them are in wheelchairs. Others suffer from disabilities like severe autism that make it impossible for them to travel to school alone in safety. Their attendance at school was down sharply in the wake of the strike. These individual stories are well set out in the New York Times.
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