While there was still little word the return of school bus operations, Puerto Rico's transit infrastructure is slowly coming back online amid continued shortages of food, water and fuel, said the American Public Transportation Association.
The Category 4 hurricane was the strongest to hit Puerto Rico since 1928 and took the island’s electrical grid offline. This brought the U.S. territories transit operations to a standstill. The Federal Transit Administration said there was no federally funded bus or transit service, bus or rail, in operation on Puerto Rico as of last week. On Thursday, APTA said eight rail stations are now ready for service, with another eight still needing another week for clean up.
APTA said staff had yet to make much contact with local public transit systems aside from two companies that operate the Tren Urbano rail service the since Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico. APTA Acting President and CEO Richard White added that damage to the island's communications infrastructure led to little if any information coming from the island, though the situation is now slowly improving.
He added on Thursday that Puerto Rico has a "long road to recovery" ahead of it.
As for school bus operations, little has been heard about when they will be up and running. Peter Lawrence, director of the National Association for Pupil Transportation's Region 1 that includes Puerto Rico, told School Transportation News that he has yet to hear from any members on the island. Schools have been closed since Hurricane Maria struck on Sept. 20, and it remained unknown if some school buses are being used for relief efforts.
Several attempts at this report to reach school bus contractors were unsuccessful as phone lines remained down.
Meanwhile, FTA awarded $8.4 million in critical grant funding on Sept. 22 to support Puerto Rico’s transit systems, but as of Wednesday the agency said only limited ferry service was operating during daylight hours to transport emergency supplies to Vieques and Culebra.
Education Week reported last week that school districts from Miami to Hartford, Connecticut are preparing to enroll Puerto Rican students who were displaced by Maria, but the process could take weeks as flights to and from the island are limited. School districts like Orange County Public Schools in Orlando, Florida said they are prepared to waive registration requirements for students as well as provide them with food, counseling and other emergency services.