So...when I was a kid, I lived in a neighborhood with about 100 homes. 2 entrances into the neighborhood. One bus stop at each entrance, and we (gasp!) WALKED to the bus stop every morning, and home every evening.
Driving to work today, I had the misfortune of getting stuck behind a bus. Drove through a residential area. In the space of a quarter mile, the bus stopped SIX TIMES.
When the hell did we start door-to-door pickup for kids?? If there's half a dozen in that small an area (and these are high school age kids - they were bigguns, not little tykes)...pick ONE SPOT where they can all meet and wait. Together.
OH Joe, You have not scratched the surface of bus abuse. There is a long ago busing program in place in Rockford, Illinois that keeps kids on buses for hours before and after school. Today all the neighborhoods are integrated, but the program rolls on.
It's a crazy thing. Trust me, the bus drivers don't like it much either. Having driven bus in Chicago's burbs, and now in rural Michigan, it's interesting to see the common parts, and the stark differences. The main commonality is safety of the kids. Can that go too far? I would just point out that at some point you will get diminishing returns on your efforts.
It does seem that I've seen an effort to limit walking more than about 2 blocks in a suburban setting. Yet typically, if you are within a mile of the school, you are supposed to walk. I have seen stark exceptions to that though, such as a bus stop a block and a half from the school. That stop did keep grade-schoolers from having to cross the street, which was very busy with parental traffic, right when they are walking. Keep in mind, they have to account for how far you want them walking in the worst of conditions too, dark, rain, sleet, snow, etc. Crossing uncontrolled intersections is also a consideration. How did it get this way? Well, you can be sure that when an accident involving school kids happen, lawsuits are going to fly. I've seen that happen.
Here in Michigan, we do some interesting things at some stops. Under certain circumstances they will set up a stop as a "hazard stop", where the flashing student lights are not activated, and we just use the hazard lights. It allows traffic to legally pass during the stop, so they never use it where students may be crossing the street. Many drivers don't know what to do at that point either. Many don't know what to do when the red lights are flashing either. Michigan law also specifies that a bus "MAY" pull to the side and allow traffic to pass "WHERE PRACTICABLE". There are many reasons whey that may not be done.
Special Ed. is another can of worms. Those pretty much pick up at the students house.
Having said all of that, laws and policies with vary from state to state, and district to district. I certainly can't speak for all of the laws an policies that may apply in your area. If you run into this on a regular basis, keep in mind that the school buses do run on a schedule, so getting through that area just a couple of minutes earlier will likely solve that for you. Trust me, I've been stuck behind school buses doing that sort of thing. It sucks, but at least I know the situation from the bus seat also, so it helps me be patient.
On a side note, doing a school bus stop is a high workload situation for the driver. In addition to the 18 steps that are required to perform a legal stop, you are dealing with aggravated drivers, late kids, parents parked to drop off kids in the worst possible places, weather, kids on the bus, etc. It's also the most dangerous place for the students. Most accidents involving school buses happen while doing a student stop. I've been involved in them, and know many other drivers who have too. A couple of years ago, we had an incident where a passing truck hit a student who was in the road. Early morning darkness in the rain. That driver did an incredible job of dealing with the fact that a truck had just hit one of her kids (in a 55 mph zone!), and managing to call in on the radio to get first responders on their way. The kid got pretty banged up, but did survive. Lawsuits named everybody. That kid now pays attention to the silly rules the bus driver asks of him.
All jokes aside about uphill both ways in 3 ft. of snow, my recollection of walking to school certainly was skewed over the 5.5 decades since! I just plugged my elementary school trek into the Googles, and it came out to 1 mile exactly. I could have sworn it was at least 2, probably because of the uphills.... Jr. High was a little further:1.5 miles. Rain, snow didn't matter, but we were always happy to hear the six magic words on WBZ: "No school, all schools, all day" Prompted by snowfall >8". School buses? Never rode in one till high school for away games...
It is the parents that demand it, the kids hate it.
Personally I had to walk to the end of my street to wait for the bus as due to the tight dead end road I lived on the busses couldn't go up. I usually walked to school as it was about a 15 minute walk away, vs almost 2 hours if I took the bus because I was one of the first stops.
But yea the parents are the ones that want to make sure their precious angels safely board the bus, hence the stopping at every house. Many of my friends would just meet up in front of someone's house so they can socialize, which did have the effect of reducing the number of stops and getting to school faster.
I wasn't worried so much about my time - I know they run on a schedule, and the driver does pull over at the end of this residential stretch to let the stream of cars pass. I was just amazed at how LAZY these kids (parents) are - the damn bus was stopping every eight feet! Sheesh...
Believe me, I don't fault the driver. It's 'helicopter parents' striking again...
Here in MI we have to travel at least 400 feet before we stop again. There are situations where we need to stop shorter than that, but then the second stop has to be with the hazard lights, not the red student lights. If the hazard stop doesn't fit the legal description for any reason, then need another solution, possibly going by there with another bus. The guy who puts the route together each year has a job you couldn't pay me to do. He does get lots of complaints from parents, as well as those we share the roads with. He is responsible that every stop we make every day fits into legal definitions. You had better believe that he was named in the lawsuit where the kid got hit on the highway.
BTW, I remember well that morning, driving my route and hearing on the radio of the kid getting hit by a truck. Every driver heard the same thing. No details, but we all knew it was in a 55 mph zone. Of course, policy is to limit information on the radio to a minimum. Talk about a sobering morning!
Last winter I was picking up a student in a 55 mph zone. She had a hand on the handrail and one foot on the bus when we got hit from behind hard enough that car parts went sliding past the front of the bus. Knocked her on her as in the snow, but was fine. It's a fine line trying to get kids to follow basic safety rules without trying to scare the sh!t out of them about what can happen.
The buses pick kids up in front of their houses where I live. I suspect that differs from my childhood experiences (bus stop was about 3/4 of a mile from the house) because people are more concerned about abduction than they were 40 years ago.