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There are many facets of school transportation. The most obvious on our roads is the yellow school bus, which today has come to represent U.S. K-12 public education like the little red school house and the teacher’s apple of yesteryear. But students get to and from school in many different ways. School buses only represent ferry about half of the nation’s elementary and secondary school-aged children. According to a 1992 study conducted by the American Public Transportation Association, 15 percent of transit riders at that time were students on the way to and from school. A more recent 2007 APTA study on transit on-board demographics and travel characteristics found that elementary, secondary and higher education students account for 10.7 percent of all transit riders. This indicates that the real percentage of K-12 elementary and secondary student riders on transit modes is much less than previously thought.

Meanwhile, the Safe Routes to School National Partnership says that students who ride their bikes or walk to school represent 14 percent of all student commutes. The balance is transported by parents, another relative, a neighbor, a classmate’s parents, a teenager, or themselves.  So it’s safe to say, based on the data above, that these trips in other passenger vehicles represent about a third of all school commutes. But, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System for the 2008-2009 school year, the trips with Mom, Dad or others are 60 times less safe than school bus rides and about 50 times less safe than biking or walking to school. Additionally, the 2006 book "Planning for Childcare in California" by Kristen M. Anderson, Ph.D, found that the additional mileage traveled by working parents between home and work to drop off and pick up children at child care centers found that such trips can add five to six miles daily, or more than 1,300 extra miles each year.

This section pays particular interest to school buses because of safety data and the sheer number, approximately 500,000, on the nation’s roads, plus the fact that they transport approximately 24 million students each day to and from school and on activity trips, by far the single most preferred mode of transportation for getting to and from school. The 2010 STN Buyer’s Guide estimates from state reports and data from the National Center for Education Statistics, there are about 50 million pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade students nationwide.  But we also take a look at the other modes of school travel and the related issues of each, available supporting data and links to sites of interest.