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Costs of school transportation: quantifying the fiscal impacts of encouraging walking and bicycling for school travel

November 2014

Noreen C. McDonald, Ruth L. Steiner, Mathew Palmer, Allison N. Bullock, Virginia P. Sisiopiku, Benjamin F. Lytle


The article examines a recent trend for school districts to provide “Safe Routes to School” via infrastructure and safety investment designed to encourage kids living near a school to walk or bike instead of bussing or getting driven. The article argues that, in addition to the already studied health benefits of encouraging more kids to walk to school there are, in some situations, positive economic benefits as well. The article mentions that the decrease in traffic congestion, and increase in spending on bussing and private transportation can be less than the cost of walking infrastructure. The benefits of investing in safe routes to school is increased most in areas where larger populations of students live within 1-2 miles of the school. The article also adds that some school districts are still more efficient relying on bus systems.

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Policy Implications

This article can be used in trying to determine effective transportation polices for school districts. The article argues that schools that employ “hazard busing” or bus kids because of potential hazards on their walk would benefit tremendously from instead creating safe walking spaces and saving the money on busing. The article also mentions that a lot of schools bus a disproportionally high amount of students due to the fact that many states offer schools money per bussed students, and students who live the closest are cheapest to bus.

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