School-aged children in large cities often take public transportation to get to and from school. And for children who live further away from their schools, this can often mean taking up to 4 different modes of transportation in a single day. While this may not seem like the sort of problem that a city would need to address, having hundreds or in some cases thousands of extra passengers each day can pose real logistical problems for even advanced transportation systems such as Philadelphia’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority, or SEPTA. To help alleviate the additional traffic that school children generate, and to make it easier and more cost effective for these students to reach their schools safely and on time, SEPTA has introduced a trial program that allows students to use weekly passes that are given to them by their school, which means that the students have free access to the transportation system during weekdays.
The recent trial program by SEPTA however points to another problem facing public school systems. In the past, a simple fleet of school buses would be able to pick up and deliver school children with relatively high levels of efficiency. However, in a complicated urban environment where schools may close halfway through a student’s career, and where intracity traffic and congestion are real problems, the school bus fleet has in many cases become a thing of the past. With education budgets being slashed nearly daily by local and federal governments, and with congestion charges rising sharply in an attempt to curb rising city pollution levels, school buses have become outdated. Requiring nearly constant maintenance, and being prone to mechanical failure, these aging school buses have been replaced by modern public transportation networks where the network’s operational costs are spread over all of its customers, thereby relieving school systems of a primary financial burden and, also, introducing students to the practicality and convenience of public transport systems.