Transportation is not typically something discussed at length when it comes to education. It is understandable why. How you get to and from school does not have much to do with test scores or instruction. So, conversations about busing often fall by the wayside. With that being said, transportation is arguably the most important aspect of education outside of the classroom and often times the biggest line item in the budget. For that reason, Indianapolis Public Schools has proposed some changes to their current transportation plans.
An expected budget shortfall of around $18 million has created tough choices for the district. IPS has proposed transportation changes that are estimated to save around $7 million. These changes include options like greater use of “walk-zones” and cutting of transportation for students who live within a certain distance of their school.
The proposal that has raised the most eyebrows is shifting some high school students from yellow bus services to IndyGo city buses. Some people have expressed issues with students using city transit as opposed to the traditional big yellow buses students have grown accustomed to.
I went to a magnet school growing up and yellow bus service wasn’t possible for a school with as wide an area base as ours. As someone who had the experience of taking a city bus to and from school, I can tell you that utilizing city transit is a perfect solution to this problem and should honestly be explored even in the absence of a budget shortfall.
It teaches students to use city transit.
Using city transportation is a practical skill that we do not really have a way to teach in school. Introducing students to a bus pass at this juncture in their life gives students a chance to learn to navigate the city transit system and increases their chances of using it as an adult which is linked to positive outcomes for cities.
It teaches students to be independent.
When students learn to use city transit, a bus pass becomes a passport to the world. When I was taking the city bus to and from school, I was also using my bus tickets to go to work, the mall, basketball games, friend’s houses, and everywhere in between. I likely would not have gained that experience had I taken a yellow bus as they only take you to and from school.
It offers more time flexibility thus an ability to participate in after school activities.
Most yellow school buses come twice a day. Pickup and drop off. If a student misses a bus, they might not come to school at all. Conversely, if a school does not have an activity bus, the restrictiveness of the bus schedule limits a student’s participation in extracurricular activities. A city bus would allow a student who woke up late to still make it to school. Students who want to stay after school would have the ability to stay beyond the final bell and still get home.
When I was in school, the city bus allowed me to leave school at a time late enough to participate in basketball practices and games. Any coach will tell you that “waiting for rides” is the biggest headache for extracurricular sponsors and the biggest barrier to the participation of students. It wasn’t an issue at my school.
City transit is already running regardless.
Logically speaking, if the city already has a robust transportation system, it only makes sense to utilize it as much as possible. IndyGo buses are running regardless of whether or not IPS uses them.
Some parents might be understandably nervous about students taking city transit to school, as there are obvious cons too. However, in my experience, the cons are well outweighed by the pros. In many cities, students already use city transit to a large extent. Many students have used it here with positive results as well. If IPS does rely more on IndyGo students and families should be open-minded.