The Never-Ending Car Line


Philippe Desmazes, Getty Images


Time to get up, time to get dressed, time to start the day. You look at the clock on your drive to school and see it is 7:12. You are only a two-minute drive away from school, yet there is still a high probability that you will be late. That infamous line greets you every morning, a seemingly never-ending line of single filed cars with red tail lights, moving at a pace slower than a walk, and yet every day you hope that it will be the day the speed picks up. It never does.

This sea of cars is just one of the many effects the pandemic has had on our school community. With COVID-19, many students and families haven’t been comfortable with riding the buses, alternatively using cars as their means of transportation. Pre-pandemic, the buses were full, with students sharing seats and sweating in the humid, overcrowded vehicle, shouting to the person across the aisle atop dozens of conversations. Now the bus is a silent trip, with every chair to oneself, and the conversations no more. 

Harriton has over 1,300 students and roughly 300 staff members; all of which have to make it to the building on time. The buses used to take a large load of these students and were the main mode of transportation, but now with the social distancing guidelines and the fear of enclosed, small spaces, buses are no longer as popular. The car line stretches past the intersection and far past school property, with every car only holding one to two students. Due to such low numbers of students per vehicle, the line is immensely long and incredibly slow, as each car has to stop, the students have to leave, and only then can the car head back.

On the first day of school, I wondered how I would make it to class on time with the line being so long, and it being the first day back in months, my hopes weren’t high. We are only at the start of the school year, but I have already lost track of how many mornings I have sprinted to class in order to beat the bell. As the first week of school pushed on, I talked to my sister about how we, as a school, can shorten the school line, but we ran into a couple of issues.

One issue was how comfortable people are with riding the bus. The district doesn’t have the power, nor should they, to force people to utilize the buses, so it is up to the individual if they want to take it. Since the pandemic is still raging on, many families are unsettled with the idea that their child would be in a bus with other people who might not be following the proper safety guidelines. With no other options, many choose to drive.

The other issue is the extraordinarily slow line up the hill to school. Since buses break to the right much earlier than cars, they face less of a line. After pondering this for a while, I asked myself, why not have someone direct the number of cars that go both into the parking lot and the bus drop off? However, this doesn’t work either, because the buses need a specific amount of space to turn around the bend, and they have to go to their other bus routes on time for the middle and elementary schools. 

So, what is the best solution if we can’t convince more people to ride the bus? At this moment, the best solution is to have a five-minute grace period from 7:30-7:35 in the morning. That way if you are late due to the car line you will not be counted as having an unexcused tardy, because there is nothing you can do to reduce the time it will take in the morning to get to class. Currently, the idea has been pitched to the representative of the student body and they are going to pitch it to the board. 

Yes, it is bothersome, the fact that you can get to school twenty minutes early and still be late to class, but that is the reality that we live in right now and we need to adapt. If you can, take the bus, but it is completely understandable if you don’t. Hopefully, the school administration board will accept the grace period idea. At the moment all of the teachers understand the situation, so if you are late they will (probably) understand. For the time being, however, being late to class has never had a more viable excuse.