Zum released its first annual commissioned survey, the Student Transportation Report Card: A Parental Review, which found that parents in America are most concerned about their child's safety during a school bus ride.
One-third of parents in the survey responded with concerns about child safety, followed by 18% who were concerned about COVID-19 infections; 10% were concerned about lack of tracking and visibility. At a time when transparency and agility rule the day in other industries, school busing has been slow to modernize, Zum reported in a press release. The majority of respondents, 64%, agree that today's school bus system is antiquated and in need of technical advancements to make it safer, more efficient, and better for the environment.
"Zum's vision for the future of student transportation is infused with flexibility, efficiency and transparency. The survey results revealed that two in three parents with school-aged children think that knowing if and when their child got on or off their school bus should be as easy as knowing if and when a package was delivered," said Ritu Narayan, CEO and founder of Zum. "We remain steadfast in our mission to modernize student transportation with tech-driven solutions, and this research reinforces the need for an entirely new and reimagined school bus experience for our kids, families, drivers and districts."
In addition to child safety during a ride, parents also worry about their child's experience on the bus, with 41% of respondents saying they were most concerned about bullying and fighting. Parents are also still reeling from the effects of the pandemic, with nearly half of them, 48%, noting that they are very or extremely concerned about COVID-19 infection and spread on school buses.
Pupil transportation is the largest mass transit system in the U.S., with 27 million students traveling twice a day. Still, the traditional system is often the cause of inefficiencies across districts as well as inequity among students, Zum reported. Parents noted that the following changes would be welcomed:
- Rethinking routing: 58% of respondents think school bus commute times are unnecessarily long for school-aged children. Fifty-five percent of respondents believe inefficient routes and a lack of resources cause kids to sit on the bus for too much time each day, and 48% agree that long commute times on school buses are harmful to school-aged childrens' mental health and wellbeing.
- Building flexible schedules: 53% of respondents say school bus systems do not provide working parents with enough flexibility for their child's pick-up and drop-off schedules.
Transportation accounts for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., according to the Environmental Protection Agency, with over 90% of the nation's 500,000 school buses running on diesel. These buses emit noxious exhaust, and 45% of respondents are very or extremely concerned about environmental issues that stem from diesel school bus fumes creating harmful air quality for students and communities. Another 51% believe that children who ride the school bus have a health risk due to their exposure to diesel exhaust and harmful pollutants created by the bus. More than half of respondents agree that to improve on school transportation's sustainability efforts, electric vehicles and electric school buses should replace diesel school buses.
"As a mother myself, I know the feeling of frustration with having no control or visibility into the means of transportation responsible for providing kids the access they need to get their education," Narayan continued. "Improving upon the largest flaws in the student transportation experience before, during and after the ride to meet the needs of today's kids, parents, school districts and drivers remains the driving force at Zum."