Bus or Car? The Classic Choice in School Transportation


Tori D. Rhoulac

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - safety/accidents, ridership - mode choice, mode - bus, mode - school bus


School transportation, School buses, Safety measures, Safety, Public safety, North Carolina, Mode share, Mode choice, Modal split, Modal choice, Income, Convenience, Choice of transportation, Choice models, Automobiles


School-related traffic congestion causes increased commuter travel times in many communities because of high volumes of passenger cars on school campuses that often queue onto adjacent streets. To change modal choices and behaviors ultimately to prompt a decrease in this recurring congestion, research was done to gain a better understanding of the student, household, and trip attributes and behaviors that influence school transportation mode choice for students living beyond walking distance of school. When home-to-school distances make nonmotorized modes infeasible, families typically must choose between the automobile and the school bus for travel to and from school. School transportation mode choice models were developed to estimate morning and afternoon modal split between these two modes for a North Carolina school district. The factors that exhibited statistical significance in estimating mode choice for kindergarten to eighth-grade students included the total number of students in those grades living in a household, student grade, household income, and subjective variables that attempted to quantify the convenience of each modal alternative and parents’ perceptions of modal safety. Two models were developed because the variables related differently to morning and afternoon school trip mode choice. In comparison with traditional mode choice models, the school transportation mode choice models developed as part of this research exhibit several similarities as well as distinct differences. Household income, for example, was found to be inversely proportional to the probability that a student will travel by automobile for morning or afternoon school trips.