Connecting Dots: Making the Case for Increased Student Ridership


The CDC released a report this week that, among other things, calls for expanded public transportation options to positively affect public health. Of course, school buses aren’t specifically mentioned, but the recommendations can serve as one more tool for the school transportation industry to utilize in its push to get more students on the yellow bus.

The report certainly evolves from the current conversation coming out of Washington, D.C., that our transportation infrastructure is broken. The transportation reauthorization remains in congressional limbo, though federal funding for state programs was resumed through the end of this year. Many of the nation’s highways, roadways and bridges are in need of repair. The highway trust fund teeters on the brink of insolvency. We are far too dependent upon foreign oil to fuel our passenger vehicles. Oh, and we have this little debate going on called climate change.

So, the CDC has joined the growing number of organizations that have listed what we need to do to get out of the mess we’re in. Namely, it wants to see less people driving their own vehicles and instead utilizing public transportation, walking and biking and designing healthier, smarter communities. Besides reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality, the report points to reduced injuries and fatalities associated with motor vehicle crashes, still the leading cause of death for people up to age 34. This range obviously includes school children and especially teenagers, who make up the largest number of motor vehicle fatalities.

Ah, safety, the primary faculty of school busing. Despite nearly half of all public school children riding the school bus each day, some 25 million other students are taking much less safe trips to and from school, a main target of the current American School Bus Council initiative to solicit a two-year, $5 million public awareness program to be administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation to increase school bus ridership. According to NSTA representatives, the industry had the requisite number of House and Senate signatures on a letter addressed to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood requesting the that the program be developed that highlights the safety and environmental benefits that school buses offer, which mirror CDC’s suggestions.

An interesting caveat to the discussion centering on increasing public transportation and, thus, safety and environmentally-friendly practices is one that hasn’t been heard yet in the ASBC push for federal help: job creation. As CDC points out, a paradigm shift away from a car culture to intelligent public transportation networks could result in rejuvenating the economy while making overall improvements to public health. In this economy, creating more jobs is what will really make law and policy makers sit up and take notice.