The Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RTS) in New York recently launched its Books on Buses program in an effort to become more connected with its community and encourage elementary school children to read.
While children do not make up the majority of RTS’s passengers, they are receiving special treatment. RTS recognized that many local children ride RTS buses not only to and from school, but also as their only means of transportation.
“Many children ride the bus to visit family and friends or to go to the grocery store with mom and dad,” said Donald J. Riley, CEO of RTS. The Books on Buses program came about as a reaction to this and is a unique way to welcome the children onto the bus.
Working in conjunction with local schools and libraries, RTS collected nearly 5,000 children’s books for the Books on Buses program. RTS equipped each of its 240 buses with plastic racks housing the children’s books for young passengers to read as they ride. Each bus carries about eight books.
“Moms, dads and grandparents now have the opportunity to spend time on the bus reading to their children and grandchildren or having their kids read to them,” Riley said.
RTS initially got schools involved in the program by calling upon local teachers who are family members and friends of the RTS staff for help. However, word-of-mouth quickly spread and much of the community became involved. In this way, RTS was able to involve the community and collect the books without investing in costly publicity or purchasing the books.
The plastic racks that house the books are mounted near the front or back doors of each bus and are accessible to all passengers. As the racks are placed in an out-of-the-way location, there are no safety concerns. The program is run on the honor system and bus drivers are not responsible for supervising use of the books. According to RTS, maintenance of the books has been easily incorporated into the daily cleaning of the buses, with maintenance personnel replacing lost or damaged books.
Community reaction to the Books on Buses program has been good, and RTS plans to continue the program. “Our drivers and passengers have observed many children enjoying the books while riding,” Riley said.
RTS is planning on contacting schools this fall to ask for their participation and has already had several schools and daycare centers volunteer to participate.
“The main benefit of this program has been to show our young people that public transportation is also about reaching out and being an active part of your community,” Riley said.