SANDY There were plenty of buses pulling in and out of Brighton High School on Monday morning, but you wouldn't know it to survey the parking lot, which was packed with cars, as usual.
It looked like LaVell Edwards Stadium at game time.
There were new-looking Tacomas, Libertys, Explorers, Beamers, Volvos, Audis, Pathfinders and a Cadillac and that's just the student lot. For older-model cars and fixer-uppers, please see the teacher's lot.
There's something wrong with this picture, and it's this: Why are so many kids driving to school in this era of Al Gore, global warming, OPEC, $3 gas, air quality indexes, blah, blah, blah? It's not just at Brighton; it's everywhere.
Look, do you want a sure-proof plan to cut pollution, curtail oil use, reduce traffic jams, make our streets much safer, cut back on school tardies and really hack off your teenager?
Tell your teen to take the bus to school.
Robinson, have you lost it, man? Why don't I just ask him to throw away his iPod, too?!
OK, it's probably not going to happen, but maybe it's an idea worth visiting. Do the math. Millions of cars are driven to and from thousands of high schools around the nation, five days a week, nine months a year. You don't think that adds up? That probably kills off, what, 10 rain forests?
Why do teens have to drive to school when there are plenty of buses to ride and it's only 1-3 miles away? Why do they drive when adults are being encouraged to carpool or use mass transit?
"You can leave at lunch time; it gives you free agency," said upper classman Jordan Magelby, who, as you might guess, was just leaving a seminary class.
Magelby's classmate, Mary Ballstaedt admitted, "I don't know where the bus comes."
For that matter, she said she didn't even know anyone who rode the bus to school.
OK, we get it. Riding the bus is not hip, and it could possibly damage a kid's social life. Only certain kids ride the bus. For instance, if you were making a list of former kids who rode the bus and those who didn't, it would look something like this:
Non-bus riders: Brad Pitt. George Clooney. Coolio. John Lennon. Julia Roberts. Marshall Mathers.
Bus riders: George Will. Barbara Walters. Hillary Clinton. Dwight Shrute. Frank Burns. Dan Rather. George Constanza. Ringo. Dick Cheney (probably a bus monitor).
But this, of course, needs to change. We need to persuade more George Clooneys to ride the bus. Schools that are already cramped for space have to use acres of land for parking and, in Brighton's case, hire an outside parking enforcement agency. Students drive their (dad's) car a couple of miles to school, let it sit in the parking lot for eight hours and then drive home. What's the point?
Brighton has 820 parking spots for a student body of 1,927 kids and a staff of 100 but no soccer field and no tennis courts.
"I wish more of our kids would not drive," says Brighton principal Rebecca Laney.
"Having to deal with parking is a huge issue. I'm an educator; I don't want to deal with parking."
And, let's face it, any time you can reduce the amount of time that teens are behind the wheel, lives are saved. A list of the most dangerous places on the planet: (1) Mt. Everest (2) Dick Cheney's ranch (3) A high school parking lot at 7 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
Part of the problem is the buses themselves and the perception of those buses. Despite all the updates in technology in the past four decades, the yellow buses are still pretty much the same, which is to say they are comfortable if you're a second-grader or Gary Coleman (another former bus rider).
If we want to entice kids back to the bus, here's what we can offer for the experience:
• A fleet of Madden cruisers.
• Stewards and stewardesses.
• In-flight movies.
• Beverage service.
• In-flight tutoring.
• Bingo on Friday afternoons.
• Required co-ed seating.
• "Airline seats" with head rests and trays.
• First-class section for seniors.If all that doesn't work, tell them to ride their bikes.