School Buses: Most Used Form of Mass Transit

Most people, if asked, would probably respond that buses or subways are the most frequently used method of mass transit in the United States. They would be wrong. One of the best kept secrets in transportation statistics is the extent of school bus ridership. Part of the reason is that statistics are not as readily available as for school buses as they are for other modes of transport. Every school day, school buses carry 65 percent more travel than the nation’s transit buses, subways (metros), light rail, trolleybuses (electric buses), commuter rail and dial-a-ride services combined.

Of course, many school buses are operating in rural areas. Yet, even in urban areas, school buses carry a huge volume of travel. On school days, school buses operating in the nation’s urban areas carry 85 percent as much travel as all transit bus and rail services combined.

Sometimes it is suggested that school buses services should be merged into transit agencies, to save money. However, that would hardly do, since transit expenditures per passenger mile are approaching three times that of school buses. Transfering transit services to school districts would make more sense.

Originally posted to On the Heartland: 2006.07.15