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Student Transportation
Report Card

Parents share major concerns about student transportation ahead of the coming school year

Parents share major concerns about student transportation ahead of the coming school year

Table of Contents

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  1. Introduction
  2. Summary
  3. Parents share tremendous support for modernization
  4. Parents voice very serious concerns about sustainability
  5. Parents lack confidence in the safety of student transportation
  6. Parents question the efficiency of school bus routes
  7. Looking ahead to student transportation in 2022 and beyond
  8. Methodology

 

Daily Life For Students Has Changed Dramatically Over The Years, But One Aspect Has Been Left Behind: Student Transportation.

Parents and educators all across the country have one major thing in common—a desire to see the children in their care have joyful, safe, and fulfilling lives. One impactful factor leading to a positive childhood experience is education, which often includes traveling to and from school by bus.

School transportation is the largest mass transit system in the U.S. and the school system’s second-highest budgetary consideration, totaling $28 billion annually nationwide.

At Zum, we are constantly working to reimagine student transportation and help students, parents, and schools move out of the archaic school bus system and into a safer, more sustainable and more efficient one—something we believe is desperately needed.

With that in mind, we commissioned a third-party survey of 3,500 parents of school-aged children to see how they feel about the student transportation system particularly with regard to today’s most important topics: child safety, environmental sustainability, and technology-enabled efficiency.

An overwhelming majority of parents, 75%, have experience using the school bus system, so the information and data gathered is derived directly from parents who have real-life experiences related to the state of student transportation.

Summary of Key Findings

  • 78% of parents are not completely satisfied with the flexibility of pick-up and/or drop-off.
  • 72% of parents have serious concerns about diesel school bus fumes creating harmful air quality.
  • 67% of parents believe they should be able to track the school bus just like a package being delivered to their home.
  • 64% of parents said school buses need technical advancements.
  • 60% of parents believe school bus systems are poorly funded resulting in issues for families who use them.
  • 58% of parents have serious doubts about their children getting to and from school safely on the bus.
  • 54% of parents believe electric vehicles (EVs) and/or electric buses should replace old polluting buses.
  • 52% of parents believe that safety on the school bus is far and away the biggest concern — five times more important than any other issue.
  • 51% of parents believe that their children are at risk from diesel exhaust fumes created by the school bus.
  • Only 16% of parents said they are extremely confident about a safe trip to and from school on the bus.
  • Bullying and/or fighting is the top concern related to child safety on the school bus.
  • Increased visibility with secure onboard cameras is the top desire for parents interested in increasing safety on school buses.

Parents Share Tremendous Support for Modernization

The most concerning for parents is of course making sure that their child is safe on the bus. Another 18% are concerned with the possibility of school-bus related COVID-19 infections—also directly related to child safety. In all, 52% of parents have real concerns about their child’s safety on the school bus.

Additional top-of-mind concerns include commute times that are too long, pickup and/or drop off not being reliable or convenient, and that the buses themselves are environmentally harmful. Others shared that school buses are antiquated while others worry that the buses are not widely accessible to students in all communities. 

And finally, parents also voiced a need for more modern tracking and visibility features to provide insight into where their children are and when the bus will arrive at its destination. 

Next, as funding is a hot topic in schools, the survey looked at if parents felt student transportation was underfunded and if this underfunding resulted in serious issues for those families that depend upon the buses.

A whopping 79% believe that school bus systems are underfunded, or are on the fence about this issue, and only 21% were happy with the state of current school bus funding.

Given the massive technological advancements in adjacent sectors to improve safety, efficiency, and environmental standards, how do parents think the school transportation industry stacks up? The findings revealed that 64% believe bus systems need technical advancements, and another 17% were on the fence. Additionally, only 19% were truly happy with buses today and believe the vehicles do not need technical advancements or upgrades.

Tracking a package is amazingly easy in 2022, so it would follow that parents would want an easy way to track their children as they traveled to and from school on the bus. 67% agree that they should be able to track the school bus just like a package, and only 18% did not feel that tracking and visibility were a prominent issue.

So how are parents feeling about the primary concerns of safety, sustainability, and efficiency? Do they believe school buses are safe for their children, good for the environment, and an efficient use of energy resources?

In fact, less than half of parents gave the green light to today’s buses and 56% were either unsure or believed buses were not safe, not efficient, and were harmful to the environment

Parents Voice Very Serious Concerns About Sustainability

95% of school buses in the United States run on diesel, which creates greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. And it goes without saying that regular gasoline bus engines are at least as environmentally harmful as diesel engines.

Understanding those two points, 72% of parents have serious concerns about the fact that school bus fumes create harmful air quality for students and communities. Of that number, 45% identify themselves as very concerned or extremely concerned.

More than half (51%) think their children’s health is at risk, exposed to diesel exhaust and harmful pollutants created by the bus. 25% are unsure. Only a quarter of respondents are not particularly worried about fossil-fuel school bus emissions.

Tesla changed the electric vs. gas-powered automobile landscape and the electric-based transportation boom is now entering the school bus realm. 

Parents are definitely on board with this momentum, as 54% believe EVs/electric buses should replace old polluting buses, and another 22% are undecided. Only 22% disagree completely and are not in favor of exploring the use of EVs/electric buses. 

And ​​even as political momentum is driving toward a more sustainable policy structure, the reality is that EVs aren’t just better for the environment, they’re often much more efficient from a cost perspective, too.

Parents Lack Confidence in the Safety of Student Transportation

Thinking about a child’s daily school bus ride can be unnerving. Parents worry about horrible accidents, unqualified drivers, and bus-ride-transmitted COVID-19. Some perceive buses as perilous environments beset by a host of illicit activities. So, what do parents fear most and what do they think needs to be done to combat these issues?

Bullying and/or fighting was the paramount safety concern, in addition to concerns about drug use, unsafe vehicles, toxic fumes, sexual harassment, and untrustworthy and/or poorly trained bus drivers.

All of these concerns add up to a question of physical and emotional safety on the school bus. Only 16% of parents are extremely confident about their children getting to and from school safely on the bus. In total, only 42% are confident, and 58% have serious doubts about their children getting to and from school safely on the bus.

Flipping the anxiety on its head, what do parents think should be done about their specific concerns? And what will give them peace of mind?

Increased visibility with secure onboard cameras rose to the top of their list. Digital communication is also desired, indicating that push for increased modern technology in today’s school bus systems.

Taking it further, 24% of parents would like to see on-bus cameras that they could access from an app. An additional 13% mentioned that more driver training would be a key element in making them feel more confident regarding school bus safety. 11% are worried about on-bus air quality, 18% want better digital communication including real-time schedule and routing updates, 10% want more consistent sanitation and improved air circulation. 

Surprisingly, only 15% felt that mandatory seat belts should be the norm, and only 9% felt that there should be more efficient school bus routes to shorten time on the bus.

There is a general labor shortage across the United States, and school bus companies are not immune to difficulty finding drivers. When labor supplies are tight, companies sometimes relax standards to fill positions. This is a major pain point for parents as only 17% feel that drivers are extremely trustworthy and competent, and only 34% said that drivers are somewhat trustworthy and competent.

While many Americans feel that the COVID-19 pandemic is on the wane, we know that COVID-19 is much more transmissible in closed areas, and 72% of parents still have concerns about the risks associated with COVID-19 on school buses.

Parents Question the Efficiency of School Bus Routes

First-one-on and last-one-off was a nightmare for many bus-riding students. If a student lived furthest from school, their commute could be three or four times as long as that of the student that lived nearest the school.

And commuting time seriously impacts student exercise and sleep patterns. Nearly 60% of parents think commute times are  too long for school-aged children. Another 21% are unsure, and just 21% do not believe commute times are too long.

Inefficient routes and lack of resources cause children to sit on the bus for too much time each day. Parents agree, as 55% believe children are on the bus for too long, while another 22% are unsure. On the other hand, just 23% of parents believe their children do not sit on the bus for too long. 

48% of parents agree that today’s commute times have a potential negative impact on child mental health and wellbeing. Another 24% are neutral on this issue, and only 28% totally disagree and believe that excessive commute times are a non-issue.

Drop-off and pick-up flexibility are paramount for working parents. 78% of parents were not completely satisfied with the flexibility for pick-up and drop-off, suggesting that parents desperately need some relief in managing their children’s commute

Are schools investing adequately in achieving that relief? 66% of parents surveyed believe that traditional school bus systems are a poor use of school system budgets and resources. Only 34% disagreed and felt that school bus systems deserved the budget and resource consideration received today.

Looking Ahead to Student Transportation in 2022 and Beyond

In review, data shows that parents desperately want to know where the school bus is. Parents would also like to see more use of live digital cameras so that all bus activities could be viewed in real-time.

With global warming presenting itself in the form of hotter temperatures, widespread drought, stronger and more frequent tropical storms along with erratic winters, more parents of school-age children are concerned about the effect of gas and diesel bus exhaust on the environment. Not to mention the negative impact of their children inhaling harmful diesel fumes while riding the bus. 

Many parents are also concerned with long commutes that in some cases can add hours to student school days.

With these important concerns in mind, Zum’s mission to modernize student transformation is more urgent than ever.  

The diesel school bus is not going to quickly disappear from the school transportation scene. We are working tirelessly to create massive improvements to this system, even as districts invest big dollars in their current school bus fleets. Electric vehicles and/or electric buses can help us create a modern version of school transportation that’s safe, flexible, efficient, sustainable, and a great solution for all schools and children involved. 

Our work with school districts gives parents, administrators and drivers real-time location information, route optimization, incident reporting and resolution on a cloud-based platform personalized to each family. 

We also promote and facilitate better communication between parents, drivers, school bus companies and school officials, and help to bridge the gap between old inefficient school buses that are saddled with minimal technology and newer state-of-the-art transportation modes that are safe, sustainable, and efficient.

Parents and businesses like Zum are motivated and determined to bring student transportation into a new age enabling equality, innovation, efficiency, and sustainability.

Methodology

All data found within this report is derived from a survey by Zum conducted online via survey platform Pollfish from April 28-30, 2022. In total, 3,500 adult American parents with school-aged children were surveyed. This survey was conducted over a three-day span, and all respondents were asked to answer all questions as truthfully as possible and to the best of their knowledge and abilities. 

Press Contact Information

For more information about this report, please contact us at press@ridezum.com.