By EMILY R. WEST
In efforts to keep cars in the driveway, both the Franklin Special School District and the Franklin Transit Authority will work together on a new carpooling program this fall.
Right now, nearly 24,000 kids between Williamson County and the Franklin Special School District ride the bus each day to school.
As of this year’s enrollment numbers, the FSSD enrollment is 3,501 between pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Williamson County Schools has 38,240 including early childhood and pre-K.
So the question from transportation officials boils down to how can they make more kids in both districts ride the bus or carpool?
“One school bus can take 36 cars off the road,” Franklin Tomorrow Executive Director Mindy Tate said. “It can save $6 million dollars and 2.3 billion gallons fuel. We want to help the environment, want to provide a gateway to education and keep your kids safe.”
In the FSSD fleet, the district has 33 buses. They travel approximately 800 miles for a one-way trip.
“I will have a parent say to me, ‘Why should I allow my child to ride the school bus,” FSSD Transportation Director Jesse Horne said. “My response would be, ‘why not?’
“Folks, it is the safest mode of transportation on our streets today. We encourage our families to ride a school bus. We try to lessen the ridership. Our ridership is always higher in the afternoon versus the morning. It’s half of the ridership most of the time.”
On top of trying to get more ridership, the Franklin Transit Authority will create a new partnership with the FSSD. Starting at Freedom Intermediate, the FTA will launch SchoolPool. According to FTA Executive Director Debbie Henry, the effort is done nationally though not yet locally.
“This is the first type of launch in our area,” Henry said. “It’s free. And parents can go online and they can register their information and the ride-matching software will match with other parents who have registered. Then the parents can get together to coordinate routes and times.”
Henry said it’s a secure, trusted site. She noted one of the benefits was that it would provide a sense of community in the neighborhood.
“Fifth- and sixth-graders are a great target market for this,” she said. “They like the carpooling idea. There are many benefits for the after school activities as well.”
The FTA plans to launch the effort in the next couple of weeks.