Published Friday, May 28, 2004, in the East Bay Business Times
Van firm helps make shuttle program go
By David Goll
For Bay Area working parents, getting to the office on time is
challenging enough. Add the schedule of a child -- or two or three --
and it becomes a three-ring circus of stress.
That's why Lisa Sweeney feels fortunate to live in Alameda, which has
developed what might be described as a "holistic" approach to
"Most cities just don't consider the transportation needs of kids,"
said the single-mom commuter, who has youngsters ages 9, 6 and 5.
Since enrolling last month in a Union City course to become a
state-registered pharmacy technician, Sweeney has depended on a
relative for school transportation for her kids. Once the school year
concludes, they will be attending an Alameda day care program.
That will coincide nicely with the June 21 launch of Alameda Kids
Coach, a program in which two 16-passenger vans will shuttle children
-- from infants to early teens -- to day care or summer recreation
programs between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. In September, two more vans
will be added so service can be expanded to include the hours between
12:15 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., as well.
Initially funded with a $431,000 grant from the Metropolitan
Transportation Commission and about the same amount from other
government agencies, Kids Coach has also received a major shot in the
arm from MV Transportation Inc. of Fairfield. The city bought four
vans from the company, which is providing insurance and drivers for
free. A fifth van that can be used as both an overflow vehicle during
busy times and transportation for disabled children will also be
"We had been hearing for a long time how difficult it was for people
to handle getting their children to school, day care, the Boys and
Girls Clubs and other activities when they also had to commute to
work," said Liz Harris, Alameda's child services coordinator and
director of Kids Coach. "It's hard enough for people with cars, but we
also hear stories about people commuting on the bus and having to take
their children along with them to take them where they needed to
go. Since the parent has to get off the bus and then wait for another
one, it can take them up to two hours to travel 4 or 5 miles from
their home in Alameda to their job in downtown Oakland."
Cost of the program is based on a family's income. In most cases,
it'll range from $110 to $200 a month. So far, 45 riders have signed
up for the summer service, but the two vans will be able to handle up
to 90 per day. In the fall, expanded service will have a capacity of
more than 200 riders.
Harris said it's likely she will seek more financial and in-kind
support for Kids Coach from the business community.
A city-sponsored survey revealed only 14 percent of kids in Alameda
have a parent who primarily stays home. So don't be surprised if
there's a waiting list in Kids Coach's future.
"I am really excited about this program," said Sweeney. "It will make
my life a lot easier. I'm very proud that Alameda went after those
grants. It really means a lot to people like me."
For more information or to enroll Kids Coach, call 510-749-5824 or go
online at www.alamedakidscoach.org.
Safeway helps schools
Thanks to Safeway Inc., school crossing guards may not become an
endangered species in Burlingame.
The Pleasanton-based grocery giant made a donation of $32,000 last
week to help prevent eight crossing guards from being eliminated due
to budget cuts in the Peninsula school district. The contribution
covers half of the annual cost of the program.
School district officials are now seeking help from other businesses
and community members to close the gap.
"Education is Safeway's main philanthropic focus," Frank Calfas,
Safeway Northern California president, said in a statement. "So when
we heard that Burlingame Elementary School District would lose their
crossing guards, we knew that we had to get involved."
Earlier this spring, Safeway wrote an even larger check -- $50,000 --
to help restore some of the cuts anticipated as a result of a $16.5
million budget shortfall in the West Contra Costa Unified School
District, which has an enrollment of 35,000 K-12 students in El
Cerrito, Richmond, San Pablo, Pinole and Hercules. Initially,
district officials proposed cutting out all school sports and arts
programs, along with laying off 200 staff members.
Also making big contributions were The Mechanics Bank of Richmond and
Wells Fargo Bank.
Officials now hope drastic cuts can be avoided if voters approve
Measure B -- an $85 annual parcel tax measure that would raise $8
million -- on the June 8 ballot.
Good Business focuses on the good works of business in the East
Bay. To comment or suggest column items, contact David Goll at
925-598-1436 or dgoll@...