The important role of the yellow school bus was featured in the second episode of PBS’ four-part series "America Revealed" that focused on the nation's intricate public transportation infrastructure.
In this episode, “Nation on the Move” on Wednesday, April 18, series host Yul Kwon experiences nostalgia during his trip on the school bus to meet driver Mike Meehan of the Kingman School District in Arizona, which serves an area the size of Delaware with a fleet of 53 buses that cover about 1.5 million miles a year.
"When these kids are on the bus, they're my kids. I don't take that lightly," Meehan says, who drives about 165 miles a day. "I have to be the mother, the father, the mediator, the nurse, the cool uncle."
Kwon, who gained notoriety by winning the CBS reality television Show "Survivor: Cook Islands" in 2006 and is a former legislative aide to Sen. Joseph Lieberman, points out that school buses are the "lifeblood" of education for millions of students nationwide who otherwise would have no way to get to school.
"There's no system like this anywhere in the world," he adds, after riding with a bus-load of students. "Our school buses work amazing well, which is good considering how much we rely on them."
He states that an "army" of a half-million school transportation experts, namely school bus drivers, take 26 million students to and from school each day. He also says that school buses represent the largest mode of public transportation in the nation.
The series provides a glimpse into the nation’s infrastructure system that keeps Americans moving every day. In addition to school buses, the segment looked at the various components that comprise our complex transportation system, including highways, rail, transit and aviation, and the people who power these vital transportation modes.
“We believe this is especially timely as Congress is currently debating the highway bill,” PBS representatives told School Transportation News.
The House and Senate passed a 90-day extension on April 2 to keep surface transportation programs alive until bipartisan agreement can be reached on Senate Bill 1813. House members voted 266-158 to adopt the 90-day bill, while Senators tried unsuccessfully to attach S. 1813, or Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, to the 90-day extension.
The yellow school bus is the safest way to transport our nation’s children to and from school and school-related activities, according to SchoolBusFacts.com, a joint project between the American School Bus Council and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In addition, each school bus keeps approximately 36 passenger vehicles off the road, saving energy and reducing overall emissions.
Check local listings for the specific PBS channel and airtime in your area.
STN's Michelle Fisher contributed to this report.