One afternoon, right after school was let out, sophomore Shaniyah Wadiwala watched as the 29-Sunset Outbound bus operator drove past her stop at Lake Merced. Wadiwala needed to go home and felt angry that the bus operator had skipped her stop. According to Wadiwala, several 29 Outbound bus operators have skipped her stop multiple times due to overcrowding, forcing her to wait even longer for the next bus. From time to time, bus operators will even skip stops when the bus isn’t full.
Her experience isn’t unique. On any given school day after school at this stop, there are at least 20 Lowell students, along with Lakeshore Elementary students with their parents or guardians, waiting for the same bus, according to Wadiwala.
A.P Giannini’s school tripper passes by Lowell students waiting at the Lake Merced stop. Photo by Esther Posillico
In a survey conducted by The Lowell in February, 80 percent of students that take the 29 Outbound said that they have been skipped by the bus operator at least once, and 14 percent of students said more than eight times. Another 82 percent that take the 29 Inbound said that they have been skipped by the bus operator at least once.
Another bus that Wadiwala has seen pass by the Lake Merced stop daily is A.P Giannini Middle School’s 29 Sunset Outbound “special” school tripper bus.
Lowell doesn’t have this bus service, even though it has the largest student body out of all the schools in the district.
School trippers are special buses to increase service on routes by schools where there is frequent overcrowding with students. These buses are paid for by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA), not the schools or school district. SFMTA can’t provide specific routes just for schools. They can only add service to routes that are near schools, according to SFMTA chief spokesperson and media relations manager Paul Rose.
Lowell doesn’t have this bus service, even though it has the largest student body out of all the schools in the district. Washington has 2,020 students, and Lincoln has approximately 2,200. Lowell has over 2,700.
Students crowd on to the 29-Sunset outbound bus. Photo by Esther Posillico
The sheer number of Lowell students taking Muni buses after school should qualify Lowell for a tripper. In the survey, 43 percent of students surveyed said they take Muni from school five days a week and 79 percent (an estimated 2,170 students) take Muni from school at least once a week.
The two most common Muni routes that Lowell students take are the 29 Inbound (24 percent), which goes north through the Sunset towards the Presidio, and the 29 Outbound (21 percent) which goes east towards the Bayview. Because of the high demand for both of these routes, Lowell should have a school tripper for at least one of these routes, or preferably both.
In addition to the high demand for these routes, a significant number of students that take these buses also qualify for the federal free or reduced lunch program, which is based on household income. In the survey, 31 percent of the students who take the 29 Inbound and 62 percent of the students who take the 29-Outbound said they qualify.
The possibility of Lowell getting a school tripper isn’t out of reach.
Once The Lowell informed assistant principal Holly Giles about the overcrowding and how other schools have the school tripper bus, she requested a school tripper for Lowell students and SFMTA is supposed to respond by May 30.