By Beth Heller
Our blog is a place to celebrate the surprising places we find inspiration for living well. At Live, we strive to activate our community around a shared vision of well-being, which we define as the intersection between how we eat, how we move and the ways in which we connect and find purpose. This week we’ve got our ear to the ground and are picking up rumbles of a potential solution to a big challenge facing many Green Bay families: transportation.
The Problem: Between school, sports, after-school jobs, music lessons, study groups, church and social obligations, parents spend an inordinate amount of time driving kids places and killing time until it is time to drive them somewhere else. The result is hours of time, gas money and precious parental brainspace dedicated to logistics that could otherwise be spent preparing nutritious meals, getting ahead on our enormous domestic to-do lists and, heaven forbid, actually carving out time for stress-reducing practices like exercise and hobbies that make parents nicer people. Furthermore, many students have working parents who lack the time and resources to shuttle them to practices, lessons, summer jobs and school enrichment programs. For these students, this new program opens doors to opportunity.
The Solution: An agreement with Green Bay Metro Transit has been reached to allow Green Bay Area Public School to ride city bus routes for free. The only caveat is that middle and high school students must present a valid school ID. Not only is this solution simple and elegant, it provides a fabulous example of how two large community stakeholders can work together to improve community well-being. And, as an added bonus – the new transit deal has the potential to benefit the Green Bay school district by making field trips and experiential learning activities for student less expensive, and thus more frequent, as well as building participation in the district’s free summer school programs.
The Peanut Gallery: That’s right, kids in Green Bay schools will able to use public transportation to get to school, part-time jobs and extracurricular activities for free starting July 2017. In addition to the revolutionary potential for improvement in parental sanity, here are a couple more potential positives of getting kids on public trans:
- Develop that frontal lobe – planning is mental muscle that all kids in this age group need to pump up. Too many parents (um, including me) carry the entire load of family logistics in their already crowded brains, “beaming” kids into events, games and schools like Scotty from the Starship Enterprise.
- Responsibility, responsibility, responsibility – there’s nothing like being late for practice or school a few times to teach a kid about consequences.
- Get more steps – walking to and from bus stops gets you moving. In fact, recent research by the University of Illinois showed that counties with higher rates of mass transit use had lower obesity rates. Every step counts!
- Beyond promoting personal responsibility and organization, public transport promotes civic awareness. Polite and respectful behavior is expected on the part of all riders, kids included!
- When ridership on bus routes increases, the frequency and route specificity has the potential to increase, making public transit a better choice for all riders.
- Less crowding in high school parking lots, and less trips for fast food lunches.
- Less pressure on families to have an “extra car” for student drivers.
- More opportunity for children in families that do not have the resources or flexibility to participate in after school activities, travel to after-school jobs and social events.
- Shared vision in a more sustainable transportation system.
Your Thoughts? We don’t want to live in a vacuum. Surely there’s a downside but it simply hasn’t occurred to this peanut yet. What do you think? If you believe the idea of opening public transit in Green Bay to school kids is brilliant, lunacy, or anything in between, we’d love to hear from you. Our goal is to ask questions, seek input and work with all to build well-being in the Greater Green Bay Area.