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Blog Post

‘The Future of Student Transportation’ in the Pacific Northwest and Beyond Begins Today

Expert panel hosted by Zum identifies a bold new vision for the future.

On March 31st 2022, Seattle-area leaders held a virtual town hall on ‘The Future of Student Transportation” and the urgent need to improve student safety, equitable access, efficiency and to slash harmful emissions. Hosted by Zum, a national leader in student transportation solutions, and moderated by King County Council member Girmay Zahilay, the following panelists were featured:

  • Jessyn Farrell, City of Seattle, Director of Environment and Sustainability
  • Gustavo Balderas, Superintendent of Edmonds School District
  • Kim Raney, Executive Director of Transportation & Logistics, Oakland Unified School District
  • Ritu Narayan, Chief Executive Officer, Zum Student Transportation

“Student transportation represents the nation’s largest mass transit system,” said Zum CEO, Ritu Narayan. “But it’s broken in very different ways across the country, so we rarely get to explore what systemic reform should look like at scale. That is what today’s conversation is about.”

Leaders from today’s town hall were clear about the problems facing school districts, families and kids – but also optimistic that solutions are within reach.

Panelists discussed current challenges in student transportation, including a lack of flexibility for schools, driver shortages, the impact of outdated diesel buses on the environment and on children’s health, long commute times and disproportionate harm being done to low income students with special needs, exacerbating inequity.  Panel members highlighted a collective desire for more flexibility, innovation, and technology to improve transparency, visibility, and efficiency. They also painted a vision of the future where flexible, dignified, equitable, and sustainable transportation becomes a reality for all students.

“Coming from Fedex to OUSD, I was surprised when I saw you could track your packages, but there was no visibility (for parents or administrators) of where students were,” said Kim Raney, Executive Director of Transportation & Logistics at the Oakland Unified School District. “The new technology we have been using for end-to-end tracking from Zum has been transformational to our lives.”

“We all know the value of effective transportation solutions when we need to access doctors, food, jobs and of course to youth in our schools.” said King County Councilmember, Girmay Zahilay. “We should all express our gratitude to the people and systems that get us where we need to go.”

“For me equity is very simple. Do people think they belong?” said Gustavo Balderas, Superintendent of Edmonds School District. All panelists emphasized the need to ensure the needs and voices of often-marginalized people are honored and fully heard in the design of our student transportation future, and the forging of fresh new public-private partnerships.

“We stand committed to serve the families of the Pacific Northwest, providing safe, reliable and sustainable student transportation solutions, ” Narayan added. “Seattle has always been on the cutting edge of climate action and innovation. The future of student transportation in Washington State is bright from where we stand.”

Zum will continue this conversation in Seattle and throughout the region as leaders collectively search for solutions to shared challenges and an unsustainable status quo.

"My 10 year vision is every child has a safe, healthy, climate friendly, equitable way to get to school"
Jessyn Farrell

City of Seattle
Director of Environment and Sustainability

Read the full press release