Change is in the air in Washington, as you may have read in the News & Views in this issue.
The question is: Is there any change (and I mean that in more than one sense) available for the nation’s venerable school bus system?
In a recent episode of the National Association for Pupil Transportation’s video blog, NAPTV, Executive Director Mike Martin asked Peter Mannella, an NAPT board member and executive director of the New York Association for Pupil Transportation, how he would define “change” at the federal level.
“In our own industry, I define ‘change’ as the federal government paying attention to school transportation,” Peter said. “I think there’s an opportunity there for us to present the school bus as a clean, green option for kids.”
Peter makes a great point. With a new administration in Washington, now is a vital time to reach out and promote our industry. And a key way to do this is through the American School Bus Council (ASBC).
The council strives to spread the word about the many benefits of pupil transportation. This has ranged from issuing insightful press releases to coordinating popular events like Love the Bus.
Being composed of all types of industry players — public and private transporters, manufacturers, state directors — part of ASBC’s mission is to “speak with one voice on Capitol Hill.”
ASBC recently released an analysis of U.S. pupil transportation in 2008. The findings are powerful, and they should send a clear message to anyone who fails to realize the importance of school buses. Here are some highlights:
36: the average number of cars that would be needed to transport students currently riding one school bus
17.3 million: the total number of cars that would be needed to transport students currently riding all school buses
822 million gallons per year: the total fuel used by school buses
$3.4 billion per year: the total cost of fuel used by school buses
3.1 billion gallons per year: the total fuel for cars replaced by school buses
$11.4 billion per year: the cost of fuel for cars replaced by school buses Can’t live without it
What all of this boils down to is that about $8 billion in fuel costs is saved in the U.S. by children riding school buses. Then there’s the savings in time and car wear-and-tear for parents, and the reduction of cars on the road. And, of course, students are far safer riding a school bus than they are traveling to and from school any other way.
With the economy in dire conditions, state and local funding for pupil transportation could take big hits. But, as the numbers above show, the nation can’t afford to have its school bus system diminished.
If the Obama administration is looking for a solid investment for federal funds, it should target pupil transportation. That’s a change that’s long overdue.