5 Transportation Challenges for Your School — and How to Overcome Them

If you're struggling to navigate the complexities of transportation logistics for your school—whether that's getting students to and from home, extracurriculars, sports, or field trips—you aren't alone. After all, enrollment in charter schools has climbed to an all-time high over the last decade, and most private schools in the U.S. have seen their enrollments rise in the past few years.

That's a critical challenge when you're striving to deliver a seamless educational experience. Whether you're ensuring student safety, optimizing route efficiency, or managing budget constraints, you're facing a unique set of hurdles that require strategic solutions. Thankfully, actionable insights and innovative technology can help your school overcome these obstacles, ensuring that your students arrive safely, on time, and ready to learn.

5 Top Challenges in School Transportation

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Program on Regulation warn that the classic transportation model of the yellow school bus is no longer satisfactory. "Although this structure worked for decades, today, students from a single neighborhood are likely not only to live further from their nearest school but also to attend a wider variety of schools, largely due to school choice policies," they explain.

"The old model is not oriented toward the new reality of many more students attending dispersed schools" like public schools, charter schools, and private schools, they add. "School transportation resources and policies have not kept pace with the needs of students."

Yet five of the biggest problems in school transportation persist, and since the old models no longer work, private and charter schools must start thinking outside the bus.

1. A Lack of Responsible, Safe Drivers

Last year, the National Education Association (NEA) reported a severe shortage of bus drivers nationwide—a problem that has persisted for years. For example, there were nearly 300,000 school bus drivers in 2010. By 2023, that dropped to just over 190,000.  

"Interrupted services and instability can disrupt learning time and contribute to absenteeism," the association notes. To address that, the NEA says that "some districts try a quick fix of outsourcing their student transportation," with one-third using private bus companies. But these districts experience "results [that] are often disappointing," including poor quality of service and a lack of reliability.

2. Mobility Inequality

School transportation encapsulates many of the inequalities we see in broader society, warn the aforementioned experts at the Penn Program on Regulation.

For example, studies have found that improving access for rural students who often live outside of the traditional bus route, or who have to suffer through indirect or long school commutes, in turn improves school attendance and academic performance.

Likewise, students with disabilities or those who have other accessibility concerns also struggle with school transportation. Solving these issues not only helps on the academic front, but also boosts student health and overall economic wellbeing.

"To advance social equity, it is essential that students can get to school," notes the Penn Program on Regulation. "School transportation policy, however, is not responsive to existing geographic and socioeconomic inequalities. Mobility justice—a requirement for social mobility—offers a framework for reimagining school transportation regulations to provide students with more equitable access to schools."

3. The High Cost of Operating School Transportation Programs

Student transportation accounts for a significant portion of every school's operating budget—an estimated $28 billion a year nationwide—and the cost per student has been rising every year since 1980. Compounding this is the rising cost of fuel, wages, insurance, and related costs. This leaves school administrators and families worried, since school transportation programs are often one of the first things impacted when a school faces financial difficulties.

4. No Real-Time Tracking and Updates

Last year, the 96,000-student district of Louisville, Kentucky, spent $1.5 million rolling out a bus routing system whose goal was to improve transportation reliability and the ability for students to arrive and depart on time. It did not go as planned, with thousands of students arriving to school hours late, and some students only getting home after 9 p.m. Meanwhile, both the schools and the families had no idea where their students were or when to expect them.

Schools, students, parents, and caregivers need reliable, on-time transportation—especially on days where there's traffic congestion or poor weather—to provide critical peace of mind.

5. A Lack of Dedicated Support For Planning and Managing Logistics

Planning, managing, and operating school transportation can be a major headache that contributes to struggling school transportation systems, according to a recent school transportation research paper by Allies For Children.

They report that this includes "planning separately for bus maintenance and route operation, projecting future costs, purchasing and service agreements, management controls, administrative record-keeping, terms of initial commitment," and more.

"Some districts are embracing school bus routing software that offers flexibility and optimization—and they’re quickly recognizing that better routes improve the well-being of children and drivers and reduce costs," notes a recent cover story for Fortune magazine. "Improving routes with cutting-edge technology... makes sense."

SHARE Mobility Can Handle these Challenges

These issues are fixable with the right approach. As part of building your school transportation program, SHARE Mobility's reliable student transportation model can help you:

  • Connect with responsible, safe drivers
  • Solve mobility inequality
  • Reduce the high cost of operating school transportation programs
  • Provide real-time tracking and updates
  • Receive dedicated support for planning and managing logistics

For example, your students will be matched with a local operator. The NEA notes that this is an oft-overlooked aspect of school transportation, since "kids need caring drivers, committed to their jobs and rooted in their communities." Each driver receives comprehensive training and oversight, ensuring they are fully informed about the specific needs and considerations of each student. This approach guarantees that our operators consistently provide service with the utmost care.

We even offer valuable insights into driver safety and punctuality, and we'll notify you of opportunities to optimize your school transportation program to better meet your needs.

Our platform also provides:

  • Automatic routing and planning so you don't have to worry about route optimization and efficiency.
  • Affordable pricing models that reduce the need for an expensive private fleet. Because everything is tailored to the exact number of students on any given day, and their specific individual needs, you can budget accordingly and don't have to worry about overutilized or underutilized bus routes.
  • The ability to request accessibility accommodations, including a wheelchair lift. Our school transportation drivers have been trained on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and are able to support all rider needs. These ADA drivers receive specific training to assist students with disabilities, such as sight, hearing, and cognitive impairments.
  • Real-time vehicle tracking where you (and the families in your school) will be able to see where the students are and when they're estimated to arrive at their destination.
  • A dedicated account manager who will collaborate with you to scope, plan, and launch your program.
  • Mobility analytics tools to optimize your school transportation system for expected students.

Make Student Transportation Easy with SHARE

The SHARE routing and student transportation platform covers the continental United States, giving your school affordable, convenient, and—most importantly—safe and reliable access to student transportation solutions coast to coast on the lower 48. Ready to transform how your private or charter school gets your community to and from school, field trips, and sports games? Contact our team today for your free consultation.

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