Do Taxpayers a Favor: Let Your Kid Walk to School or Ride the Darned Bus

In Fairfax County, Virginia, the kids are lazy, the traffic is terrible, and the taxes are high. If you're looking for someone to blame, look no farther than the area's overprotective parents and principals: Official obstacles (and unofficial reluctance) to letting kids walk or bike to school—or even wait for the bus on their own—is causing a SUV-load of expensive problems for this D.C. suburb. 

According to the area blog Greater Greater Washington:

20 percent of morning traffic congestion in Fairfax County is related to parents driving kids to school.

What's more:

According to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), nearly 60 percent of designated walkers and just over 30 percent of designated bus riders frequently use the kiss & ride method instead.

That means taxpayers are paying three times for each kid's commute: they're covering the cost of empty seats on buses, staffing for massive pick-up and drop-off operations, plus extra road congestion. 

In the case of designated walkers, we're not talking about 10 miles uphill in the snow. For elementary kids, the outside edge of the walking range is one mile of safe terrain. It's a mile and a half for middle and high school students. 

And even if parents encouraged their kids to walk or bike, they'd still hit obstacles:

At several schools, principals prohibit students from walking or biking to school, even though Fairfax County has endorsed these options.

Free Range Kids blogger Lenore Skenazy has done a great job documenting kids getting picked up by cops, parents getting visits from Child Protective Services, and other official interference with letting kids commute on their own. 

Via the Washington City Paper.

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I used to walk to grade school. I can't tell you how many times I was molested on the way.

    And if you want to save the environment, home school your brats.

  • ||

    Or better yet, get your fat ass off the couch and walk them to school yourself...

  • Name Nomad||

    Is the number of times you were molested related to you having to walk to school, or is it just how damn sexy a kid you were? I was an ugly child and my priest didn't even make a pass at me -- which is down right insulting.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    I didn't say sexually molested, perv. But yeah, I was a pretty sexy young man.

  • ||

    Not to go into a back and forth, but while it is true that molested can have a non-sexual meaning, but the sexual meaning is the most common usage, and alternative definitions usually need context to be understood. Sort of like ejaculate.

    So it's your fault people took it that way. :p

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Don't hate me because I was beautiful.

  • ||

    I was never molested on the way to school. Now I feel like shit.

  • GroundTruth||

    Me too, I want to be one of cool kids!

  • Chester||

    I'm sorry I missed you. My bad.

  • Kristen||

    I used to walk to kindergarten and first grade, goddammit.

  • cw||

    Heh, all my schools were about five miles away. And winters that lasted about six months.

  • Kristen||

    Fuck, dude - I was in Minnesota for kindergarten & first grade!

  • DJF||

    I use to walk uphill both ways in a winter that lasted 12 months of the year (shaking my cane)

  • ||

    I had to walk one and a half blocks to get to kindergarten. Yes I'm spoiled. It was near Chicago so we did have winter through most of the school year.

  • Ted S.||

    My grandfather went to school with MC Escher. For him, the walk really was uphill both ways.

  • ||

    I couldn't walk or bike because we lived across a busy highway from the school, so I rode the bus.

    The bus route reversed itself in the afternoon, so I was literally the first kid on the bus in the morning and the last kid off the bus in the afternoon for four years.

    Got a lot of reading done, at least.

  • ||

    Me too! Not because of a highway but because my dad decided we had to move way the fuck up into the mountains, I was first kid on, last kid off from grade 1 to whenever I started driving myself. Shit, the walk to my bus stop was almost a mile. Suburban kids are sissies.

  • ||

    Yeah but you were in Canuckistan Dagney. Didn't most kids have to get to school by sled dog and regularly fight bears and stuff? You had it pretty easy compared to your peers.

  • ||

    I always knew we shared a special bond.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I always found the reversal thing really annoying. Our bus route was a big circle, why should my end of it be the crappy side both ways?

  • Fairfax County Parent||

    If only there was a bubble to place around my child, then I could finally stop worrying for his/her safety!

  • o2||

    is this a high crime area ?

  • Kristen||

    Fairfax County is probably in the top-5 most wealthy in the country, with almost no murders or other violent crime. I don't recall the last time I heard about a murder on the news. I live in probably the poorest neighborhood in the county, and I have never experience so much as a broken car window.

  • some guy||

    Yeah, Fairfax County has tons of money. There's some sketchy areas down near route 1 and a few other places. But those areas are crawling with county police these days and are pretty safe. The biggest danger is crossing the damn street with all the irate commuters looking for shortcuts.

  • Kristen||

    I live on the Route 1 corrdior, just north of Hybla Valley.

  • some guy||

    That's certainly one of the poorest neighborhoods, but I've never felt unsafe in that area.

    Would you agree that the most dangerous things in Fairfax Co. are the automobiles?

  • Kristen||

    Would you agree that the most dangerous things in Fairfax Co. are the automobiles?

    Hell yes...I walk to Metro every morning and I feel like I'm running a gauntlet, even in parking lots.

  • ||

    Isn't Mannassas in Fairfax County? Some parts of Mannassas are pretty sketchy.

  • Kristen||

    Manasshole is an independent city, but it's in the environs of Prince Wililam County

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L.....n_Virginia

  • ||

    Manasshole? I've heard Man's Asses but that's a new one for me.

  • ||

    The City of Manassas, like every city in Virginia, is an independent city, though it is surrounded by Prince William County, which is a rural exurban county.

  • some guy||

    The Dept. of Labor considers PWC to be suburban and Fairfax Co. to be a core part of the washington metro area along with DC itself.

  • Citizen Yorkshireman||

    Right. I had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night half an hour before I went to bed, drink a cup of sulphuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our Dad and our mother would kill us and dance about on our graves singing Hallelujah.

    And you try and tell the young people of today that ..... they won't believe you.

  • Mainer||

    Luxury !

  • WWNGD?||

    Everyone had to walk to school in my city. At the time we had three high schools each with about 300 graduating students when I graduated. If you wanted to take the bus, you took and paid for the city bus.

  • ||

    As a Fairfax County resident I can tell you that it is even worse than described and having more parents let their children take the bus will only solve part of the problem.

    I understand the complaint about the parents driving kids to school but there are even issues for those who do have their kids ride the bus.

    Apparently these kids cannot walk 100 yards to the bus stop, they have to be driven and then sit in the car to wait for the bus to arrive. So as I try to leave my neighborhood I have to run a gauntlet of minivans on either side of the street or double parked because little Johnny and little Sally cannot walk to the bus stop and all the Mom's have to chat between cars. The same thing is repeated in the afternoon as well. This isn't a weather specific sort of thing - this happens rain or shine, warm or cold.

    Moving to the actual distribution of bus stops it is even more absurd. Heaven help you if you get caught behind a bus on the main road outside my neighborhood as there are actually separate stops that are nearly close enough for the kids to play catch between.

  • ||

    Do they really think they are doing their kids a favor? I can't imagine the kind of neurotic self obsessed adult that would come out of such an environment.

  • ||

    I can't imagine the kind of neurotic self obsessed adult that would come out of such an environment.

    I have no problem at all imagining it. I see it every day.

  • ||

    Yeah. I realized that right after I hit the submit button.

  • ||

    Same. They're so pathetic. Having seen this up close, my primary goal in life is to raise my kids so that they don't grow up to be the kind of over-indulged pussies that are overrunning the country.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I feel like those kids would have been picked on in years past, even as recently as my childhood. I managed to get my father to pick me up from the bus stop about 3 times a year, and it was 0.4 miles from our house in the Vermont winter.

  • Mainer||

    I run the same sort of gauntlet, but what really annoys is the dirty looks I get as I crawl through the double parked SUV's and minivans...they look surprised and annoyed that theres a CAR on a ROAD.

  • Abdul||

    In "the Little City," elementary kids have to be escorted by a parent to the bus stop. The whole point of bussing was to make public warehousing of children easier for society, not harder.

  • NoVAHockey||

    Same here -- also Fairfax county. when school is back in session it adds at least 30 minutes to my commute. that said, most of the high school kids in the neighborhood walk.

  • ||

    You'll feel differently about this when Kerry Howley has children.

  • ||

    Howeley's brats will be going to some red diaper baby academy in the District that won't offer bus service.

  • Spoonman.||

    I walked to middle school in the nicest neighborhood in DFW. Hilariously, somebody tried to sell me drugs out of an alleyway two blocks away from the school once.

    Because I wasn't a moron, I just walked faster.

  • ||

    Look on the bright side; kids like this will never be tough enough to "occupy" a city park and hold Wall Street hostage.

  • Mainer||

    The kids growing up here in rural New Hampshire will chew 'em up.

  • Kristen||

    What's the employment sitchyation up there in NoNH? I'm seriously considering switching my allegiance from VT TO NH (vis a vis moving), but as a web person I perceive there are more jerbs in the Burlington area (not mention I have friends there, and none in NH). And I refuse to move to Manchester.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Unless you're in some sort of tourist-y service field, I wouldn't expect to find many jobs north of Concord.

    For what it's worth, I work in ManchVegas, and live in Hooksett.

  • BakedPenguin||

    ManchVegas

    Huh? Please explain for a former resident.

  • Zeb||

    You never heard Manchvegas? Everybody calls it Manchvegas. Why? I'm not sure. Probably because it is the closest thing we have to a city and there are (relatively) lots of lights and places to get drunk and buy crack.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    I first heard ManchVegas when I was in High School during the early 90's.

    Other than that, where does it come from? *shrugs*

  • BakedPenguin||

    Okay, thx Zeb & HM. I hadn't heard that from any of my family still living there.

  • Zeb||

    Yeah, Manchester blows. According to the official numbers, employment is pretty good in NH, better than most of the country. But I'm not looking for a job, so I can't speak form experience.

  • Auric Demonocles||

    I'm spending part of this coming weekend stomping around Burlington.

  • ||

    Hilariously, somebody tried to sell me drugs out of an alleyway two blocks away from the school once.

    Was the Boys' Room closed for cleaning?

  • Spoonman.||

    The guy was like 35, fat, neckbearded, with a plastic trash bag full of red and yellow cardboard. He seemed barely capable of saying "Hey, kid, want some good stuff?" It was like he had seen one of those overblown "DRUG DEALERS WILL EAT YOUR CHILDREN" PSAs and thought "hey, that seems like a good idea!"

  • Skr||

    I weep for the future.

  • Mainer||

    At some schools, riding your bike to school is prohibited ?? WTF ? Seriously, I'm just.....speechless.

  • Brendan||

    I had the same thought.

    I also wonder where the principal(s) get the authority to decide how the students are going to get to school.

  • ||

    Reason #5,475 to home school.

  • some guy||

    I will still never home school. There is no better place than public school to expose someone to the wide variety of retards they will have to deal with throughout life.

  • GroundTruth||

    The cynicism here knows no bounds!

  • some guy||

    Schools are responsible for kids once on school property, so I assume they have the right to decide what state they'll recieve the kids in...?

  • Franklin Harris||

    The whole northern Virginia area is like the Village of the Damned, anyway, so I assume the kids can take care of themselves.

  • ||

    Are all these asshole parents career federal bureaucrats?

  • ||

    Yes, the land of associate administrators of administration, all making $150k plus benefits.

  • ||

    I have to stop my son from riding his bike or skateboard to middle school. It's a 5 minute walk!

    Alas, a neighbor who drives her lil' pampered punkin' to the same school insists on picking him up.

  • Hank||

    the kiss & ride method

    Only abstinence is 100% effective.

  • ||

    I lived a 15 minute drive from my high school. The school bus picked us up over an hour before school started, would arrive within half an hour (multiple stops) and then would sit, idling at the curb, for up to half an hour before it would allow us to get off the bus. None of us were allowed to leave until all of the other buses had arrived. That's an extra 30 minutes I could have been sleeping, or eating breakfast, or finishing up the homework I hadn't done the night before. So we drove. If the buses had been less of a pain in the ass, my parents would have been happy to save the $100 parking permit fee.

  • ||

    50% of children hit by cars near schools are hit by cars driven by parents of students according to the CDC.

  • ||

    I shouldn't laugh at that but I can't help it.

  • ||

    The less-evil laugh to have about it all... how many of the people driving their kids to school support coercive schemes to up mass transit usage?

    The bus isn't good enough for little Dakota or LeighAnne, but it's just fine for the rest of the proles.

  • ||

    That is a great point. Where is the campaign to cut your kid's carbon footprint?

  • ||

    I bet most of the kids being hit were driven by their parents too. The few times I had to drive my kids (because the brats missed the bus or had to bring in a big project) the parking lot was an obstacle course of kids, parents, and cars.

    The kids on the bus get dropped off right in front of the door - so they can't get hit.

  • Joe M||

    In 3rd-5th grades, I walked or rode a bike almost a mile to school every day. Never had a problem, and back then just about everyone walked or rode a bike. Only a very few kids got car rides, like the youngest ones. Now, it seems like everyone gets a ride.

  • Jordan||

    WTF is the "kiss and ride method"?

  • ||

    Like "park and ride" without the parking, i.e. dropping someone off at a bus stop.

  • Joe M||

    I'm amazed you were able to give a straight answer to that question.

  • ||

    I've got to keep you bastards off-balance somehow.

  • SomeFreeGuy||

    Piss-off, I'll drive my kids to school if I feel like it.

  • jj||

    +1.
    As a foreigner living in the US I am astounded at the sheer impudence and dangerousness of your yellow nazimobiles (aka school buses). They stop whenever and wherever they want, as suddenly as they like. And the cars around them scream to a halt causing accidents and traffic jams. All so one little snotty-nosed kid can cross the road without having to take normal navigation skills into consideration.

  • ||

    If you don't like it, go back home and resume running kids over.

  • jj||

    Because kids are slaughtered by traffic in the rest of the world.

    You sound like a British colonialist in the days of a dying empire.

  • ||

    I was half-joking. In China, however, people really don't stop for buses or kids.

  • skr||

    Yeah but that is for the greater good.

  • ||

    And we'll continue to mock you for it.

  • ||

    Good for you, dude. Just be sure to have that basement ready for them to live in when they're 36.

  • Nipplemancer||

    On the first day of kindergarten my mom walked me to school. After that I was on my own.
    There's a school bus stop down the road, every morning and afternoon there are about half dozen cars idling while they wait for the bus. These helicopter moms are ridiculous. None of the kids have to walk more than half a mile to get home from the bus stop. What I do find somewhat ironic is that it's probably one of the safest stops in the area because it's right next to my local gun & bait shop.

  • GroundTruth||

    In my case it was my grandmother, but the rest of the year, it was with a friend, or, horrors, solo.

    Get a life!

  • GroundTruth||

    In my case it was my grandmother, but the rest of the year, it was with a friend, or, horrors, solo.

    Get a life!

  • Greer||

    Only KMW could come up with such a stupendously stupid idea that driving a car costs taxpayer untold millions.

    Drive your kids or not, as you wish. Don't let some "libertarian" who wants you to do as she thinks tell you what to do.

    Driving your kid to school, the horror.

  • jj||

    Agreed.

    Did you know that KMW and Weigel had a love-child?

  • Greer||

    must be one fugly motherfucker

  • np||

    Fucking A. Learn to read. It isn't the driving itself that's costing taxpayer money. It's all the unused services that is already paid and mandated that's costing taxpayers by being wasted. If all the programs were defunded this article wouldn't be written in the first place.

  • np||

    plus the fact that they are also prevented from letting kids walk or use the bus in variety of scenarios

  • ||

    The bus isn't good enough for little Dakota or LeighAnne, but it's just fine for the rest of the proles.

    Don't forget the added bonus of reduced congestion for Sunny to maneuver her Mercedes ML550 right up to the front steps of the school.

  • ||

    LOL. I live in Bethesda, which is even richer than Fairfax county. I live in the world safest tree lined neighborhood. And every day I see the moms down at the school bus stops hovering over kids as old as 11 and 12. It is just unbelievable.

  • Zeb||

    I live out in the fucking woods and I still see that shit.

  • Michelle Obama||

    Let's Move!™

  • jj||

    But, but, but Michelle Obama is "just like us." After all she visited Target. And she did so while wearing a baseball cap!

  • ||

    Don't be fooled by the rocks she got, she's just Michelle from the block.

  • ||

    Around here, there aren't even any school bus stops anymore. All the kids get picked up right from their houses. Yep, door-to-door service at taxpayer expense. (Me, I walked 2.5 miles each way, & then had mandatory gym class every day.)

  • T||

    I grew up and went to high school in Fairfax County (Oakton HS Represent!). Every story I see from there makes me so glad I left.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    What's more:

    According to Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS), nearly 60 percent of designated walkers and just over 30 percent of designated bus riders frequently use the kiss & ride method instead.

    That means taxpayers are paying three times for each kid's commute: they're covering the cost of empty seats on busses, staffing for massive pick-up and drop-off operations, plus extra road congestion.

    Then perhaps the answer is that we shouldn't have publicly subsidized school transport.

    Individual liberty includes the mode of transport one wishes to use, yes? I'm not going to alter my decision on how my kid gets to school based on sanctimonious mau-mauing from some "free-range parenting" scolds.

  • Mr. Soul||

    All education issues stem from the adjective....COMPULSORY. We hafta have reflective paint because we hafta be seen because we hafta stop alot becuase we hafta pick up kids because we hafta give them breakfast because we hafta send them to school. LoL then we "should" support a levy.

  • ||

    Heroic, we agree that taxes should not subsidize your transportation options.

    We also agree that you should be free to have Li'l Heroic transported however you want.

    And we will mock you mercilessly if you are a Helicopter Parent.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    Unfortunately, my kid has a serious, chronic illness, so I kinda have to helicopter over her. One symptom is splenomegaly, so one good hit to the stomach from a fall or something like that and she's dead.

    And if and when they take her spleen out, then she needs to be on antibiotics for the rest of her life.

    So, in short, I'm driving her. :)

  • ||

    Dang, H. That really sucks.

    Hover away, and good luck!

  • Zeb||

    You have a good excuse. I would say that most healthy children of adequate intelligence are done a disservice by overly protective parents.

  • ||

    Then perhaps the answer is that we shouldn't have publicly subsidized school transport.

    Or if not a nominal upfront user fee, or even if you don't charge, make it an opt-in system.

    But that said, if you drive your kids to school or wait for them in your car in Fairfax County, your freedom of choice of transport has negative externalities, and perhaps some tree-hugging hippie crap might gently persuade you to reconsider. But if your kids are in the designated walk zone, I could probably understand:

    For elementary kids, the outside edge of the walking range is one mile of safe terrain. It's a mile and a half for middle and high school students.

    Having an 8 year old kid walk a mile to school can take 25 minutes easily, and if you don't shoo them out in time you'll end up driving them. But when you have middle and high school kids walking a mile and a half, almost all of them are going to want to get a ride. Because teachers keep insisting that kids bring their damned textbooks to school (instead of leaving them at home to do homework and working on something else in class), carrying a fully loaded high school backpack for a mile and a half is a real pain in the ass first thing in the morning. If you're asking for more than a 10-15 minute walk, you're probably pushing it; that would be about the half mile range, which would make perfect sense that 60% of kids who live in a walking range think it's too far to walk. In those cases, expanding the school bus zone would probably help a fair amount. But you could also get more kids to be willing to walk if they didn't have to carry a fully loaded LL Bean to school.

    And of course that doesn't get into magnet schools, or kids who drive themselves (but you can solve a lot of that by just having those kids carpool, which you can do by not giving them unlimited gas money. Of course, you can't drive more than one passenger in VA until you've had your license for a year, and you have to be at least 16 yrs 3 months to get your license in Virginia), and while that's a smaller subset, I can imagine that a substantial portion of those kids drive or get rides from their parents on a regular basis.

  • GroundTruth||

    "principals prohibit students from walking or biking to school"

    huh?

    The kid is not on school property, so it's none of the schools frakin business.

  • tarran||

    Dude, if you don't pick up the kids, they'll call DCF on you....

    Seriously.

  • ||

    DCF = Department of Child . . . what?

  • tarran||

    Department of Children and Families: the guys who if they decide you aren't a good parent can take away your children - or alternately that if you are a good parent, that the numerous witnesses who saw you smacking your kid around were mistaken and that nobody whould listen to them.

    That's what they call it here in Mass. Other states have other names, of course.

    I am pretty certain that my daughter's school would call DCF if my mom wasn't there to pick her up and she had to walk home - the same walk I & my brother did in kindergarden all by ourselves with nary a batted eye.

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