School Buses as the Largest Transit System in the US (recent stats)

The ubiquitous yellow buses are a constant sight on the roads of the country. Whether it is a busy city road or a suburban street, these yellow mammoths are reminiscent of many good things. Particularly owing to the fact that not much has changed in the last few decades. 

School Buses as the Largest Transit System in the US
Photo by James Day on Unsplash

Student transportation professionals play a significant role in connecting children to education. This vehicle is not just commuting kids eagerly doing homework with It’s carrying the most precious cargo there is – the future of the nation. 

It is of utmost importance that everyone, including parents, teachers and other civilians be aware of the stats on school buses. 

1. The American school bus fleet is 2.5 times the size of the rest of the combined mass transportation.

According to the National School Transportation Association white paper, each day, 480,000 school buses circulate the country. Compared to the rest of 140,000 approximate number of vehicles on the road, this makes school buses the biggest fleet of public transit systems in the country. The industry transports 26 million students each day, covering millions of miles.

2. Students are 70 times safer in school buses than being transported to schools by car. 

School buses are the most monitored vehicles on the road. The yellow color was originally implemented to attract attention on the road, contributing to the overall safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration attests that by being designed differently and protected by law, school buses are a safer mode of transport for students. It encourages caution around the bus, guarding students who are getting off.

3. School bus stop-arm camera laws are implemented in 22 states. 

The 2017 National Stop Arm Violation Count reported that 77,972 vehicles were observed passing school buses in a single day. At this rate, over 14 million violations would be occurring in a school year. This has inspired more states to employ concrete laws concerning safety regulations. 22 states along with the District of Columbia allow local authorities to use cameras to capture images and issue penalties for drivers illegally crossing stopped school buses. 

4. The New York City school district transports the largest ridership in the country. 

With 8,215 route buses and a 15 million route mileage, the New York City Department of Education comes first in the Top 100 School Bus Fleets of 2019. The buses are all operated by contractors. Whereas, Las Vegas, which came second, is the biggest publicly owned school bus fleet in the US, with none of the buses operated by contractors. 

5. 23% of school bus fleets primarily transport special needs students. 

The Special Needs Survey of 2020 points out that there was a slight increase in numbers of passengers with special needs compared to last year. An average of 18% of students require special needs transportation, among which 6 percent use a wheelchair. Only 9 percent of the fleet is equipped with an electronic ridership tracking system. Though the numbers are still small, the respondents say that it is a considerable increase in the facilities provided. 

6. School buses keep over 17 million cars off the road every year.

One school bus can carry the equivalent of 36 cars, saving families of 62 billion miles of driving, and 26 billion gallons of fuel. Beyond that, the environmental impact is massive, helping to save 56.5 billion pounds of CO2 emission. On a day without school buses, more teens would drive, resulting in more traffic, more pollution and lateness to work. The American School Bus Council claims that school buses are unquestionably a better alternative for cleaner air and safety.

7. Only 20% of school bus fleets are equipped with seat belts. 

The NHTSA has set the standard of mandatory seat belts only on buses weighing less than 20,000 pounds. However, individual states decide whether to pass laws requiring larger school buses to include seat belts or not. Only 20 percent of the US’s school bus fleet have seat belts available. Currently, only six states in the country have set laws to address the issuance of compulsory seat belts in all buses. 

8. School bus youth fatalities are less than 1% during school hours. 

Despite the alarming reports of school bus accidents, in comparison to fatalities caused by other carriers, the American School Bus Council reports that the numbers are less than 1 percent for school buses. By mandating regulations and setting safety standards, the federal government has managed to ensure that school buses are safer rides than other modes of transportation. 

It is time to consider shifting to the changing requirements of the education and transportation systems. The school bus fleets should be equipped to design changes by increasing policy flexibility at federal and state levels. While there is certainly plenty of room for improvement, new technologies and standards are continuously being developed to improve upon the existing conditions. 

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