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Seattle School District Seeks To Expand Bus Service Options With Possible Land Purchase

Ashley Gross
Seattle school bus drivers during a one-day strike in November.

The school bus strike in Seattle has now lasted almost a week. It has put put the drivers’ employer, First Student, under close scrutiny. The company was the only one that submitted a bid to provide bus service in the district, leaving Seattle Public Schools with little choice.

But the district is taking steps to expand its options in the future.

Land in the Seattle area is expensive, but necessary for storing a fleet of school buses.

Seattle School Board President Leslie Harris said because it’s hard to find land, other potential bus providers didn’t bid on the contract, which is valued at $29 million annually.

The school board last month approved moving ahead with a possible $4 million purchase of 18 acres of land near Renton.

Seattle school district staff identified the property “to be able to lease to a bus company in the future so that we have more alternatives,” Harris said.

The board approved the contract with First Student last year after trying to attract more companies to bid. The contract runs for three years.

First Student is the largest school bus transportation provider in the U.S. and is owned by a British bus and rail company that also owns Greyhound. Drivers for First Student have gone on strike in other places recently, including in Southern California and Montreal. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.