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How Do Students Get to School?

By Gabriela Munoz

This happened to me.

I went to middle school in El Salvador, the smallest country in Central America. The school system is so different there compared to the United States. I remember we lived 15 minutes away by bus from
the school that we attended. I was 10 years old I believe, and my little brother was
7 years old. It was our first time riding a bus alone, without an adult
responsible for us. My brother was seated near the window, and I was sitting
in the corner. We arrived at our stop, and I tapped him to let him know that we
needed to get off. I couldn’t hold his hand because the bus was full, and
people were blocking the way to get out. I got off the bus waiting for him to
get out and the bus took off. I saw him through the window calling for me, so
I ran to try to stop the bus, but I couldn’t. I remember running and crying on
my way to school to get help. The principal was outside, so I told her what was
happening, and we took off in her car to the nearest stop to wait for him. There was my brother, sitting on the bench waiting for us.

My story is not unique, here is the problem.

Many kids’ lives are significantly impacted by their lack of access to transportation. Access to transportation increases the number of schools that are accessible to families, not just in the US but also in other countries. The law mandates
that boards of education should provide transportation for kids whenever possible and
desirable, as well as the opportunity for every school-age child living in the district to attend
public school (1). Even though public transit and student transportation are available in many
states, rural communities are still in need of transportation. For residents of rural areas to have
access to medical care, social services, and educational opportunities, there must be reliable
transportation. When accessibility to these forms of transportation is restricted, rural communities may not be able to receive important services (3).

The College Board estimates that transportation costs account for 18% of student living expenses
going toward transportation. Most college students commute, and low-income students are even
more likely to attend a college nearby (2). Addressing transportation barriers can make it easier
for kids to graduate from high school and continue their education. A new grant program that
would improve public transit on or near college campuses and schools has been proposed by
federal politicians. Colleges are starting to respond as well. An example of this is the American
University in Washington, D.C. Since 2016, American students have paid a mandatory fee of
$136 per semester for unlimited rides on Metro subways and buses. George Washington University is also joining the University Pass program (5).

In collaboration with the transportation authority, Chattanooga State Community College in
Tennessee started a pilot program in September that will give college staff and students free bus
rides throughout the end of August. This fall, Los Angeles will also begin a trial program to help
reduce transportation barriers by providing free, unlimited Metro bus and train rides to K-12 and
community college students. This will increase the number of kids who have access to transportation nowadays compared to previous years (5).

Here is a non-profit organization that is trying to find a solution.

Nearly 500,000 kids in Connecticut are transported to and from school each day by the Connecticut School
Transportation Association (COSTA), a voluntary non-profit organization of pupil transportation
providers. Their goal is to ensure the maximum level of safety possible while schoolchildren are
transported. Ride United Transportation Access is another organization working to solve this
issue. Their mission is to provide unmet requirements for transportation assistance by offering
rides to people in need so they can access vital medical care, finish their education, attend job
interviews, and access other necessary services. Over 110,000 free and subsidized rides have
been given through this program, which has helped people in over 1,900 cities and towns.
Having access to programs like Ride United can help reduce barriers to transportation and can
open doors to provide access to education, employment, and many other community services.

Here is what you can do to help right now!

I found some petitions that you can sign to make public transport free for students, giving all yearly Myki cards. This is a petition organized by a group of students who are also trying to solve this problem. https://chng.it/S2zNYD47pH.

Here is another petition to make Westchester buses free for students. The petition is being organized by Westchester’s Bee-Line bus system with the aim to solve this issue. https://chng.it/cTRQqWQ6V9.

References

  1. Abbot, G. (n.d.). The differences in education and transportation in urban vs. rural areas. HopSkipDrive. Retrieved September 18, 2022, from https://www.hopskipdrive.com/blog/the-differences-in-education-and-transportation-in-urban-vs-rural-areas/
  2. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. (2021, January 12). The Longer Route To School. Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Retrieved September 18, 2022, from https://www.bts.gov/topics/passenger-travel/back-school-2019
  3. FALK, S. M., & Snyder, S. (2022, September 11). Are community colleges accessible enough to students without cars? A national group tracks proximity to public transportation. Philadelphia Inquirer. https://www.inquirer.com/news/are-community-colleges-accessible-enough-students-without-cars-national-group-tracks-proximity-public-transportation-20220911.html
  4. A hidden cost of inadequate transportation- students don’t finish college. (2022, April 13). https://ridewithvia.com/resources/articles/a-hidden-cost-of-inadequate-transportation-students-dont-finish-college/
  5. West, C. (2021, December 10). A surprising reason preventing some students from finishing college: Lack of transportation. https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2021/12/10/college-students-transportation-struggles/

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