Uber-type school bus service described as unlikely fit for Illinois
A Denver school busing program known as Success Express probably would not work well in Illinois, the president of the Illinois Association for Pupil Transportation (IAPT) told the Sangamon Sun recently.
"If a similar plan was initiated, it would only work in large metropolitan areas, like Denver or Chicago, with a mass transit system already in place," Mike Reinders said. "It would be difficult if not impossible to implement in rural areas."
Reinders, who is also transportation director of Illinois' Winnebago School District, said there had been no talk at the IAPT about a bus plan similar to Denver's.
"I am not even aware of how many, if any, are even aware of this approach," Reinders said. "IAPT has not taken a stand on this."
He said that while he gave the idea some thought, he did little research on it prior to the interview.
Formed in 1973, the IAPT strives to encourage and promote the safety and efficiency of pupil transportation, cooperating with state agencies to develop education programs about School Bus Stop-Arm Laws and all issues related to student transportation safety.
Not all districts in Illinois are required to provide students with free public transportion, according to an online FAQ maintained by the State Board of Education. State law allows districts with a public mass transit system to not offer free pupil transportation or pay any costs after certifying that adequate transportation is available to students; however, it also dictates that students enrolled in public, private or parochial school who go to school in a vehicle designed to carry more than 10 passengers must travel in a vehicle owned and operated by their school district or under contract with the district.
It isn't clear where Uber-type ride-sharing and shuttle programs for Illinois schools would fit in, let alone how they would be funded.
"Current law also stipulates that public schools provide free transportation, so how would the costs be covered?" Reinders said. "Taxes are already high, and funding for schools from the state continue to decline. So to me, this seems untenable."
Proponents of ride-sharing for students say families should at least have the option.
Denver Public Schools implemented Success Express in 2011 in the northeast of the city with an eye toward assisting families who choose high-quality school districts to find suitable transportation. While Success Express still serves only a limited portion of Denver, the program has expanded and attracted national attention. In March, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos praised the program.
"This transportation is key in order to provide students with access to quality options," DeVos told the Council of the Great City Schools. The 'Success Express,' as it's called, is a great example of how LEAs (local education agencies) are leveraging federal, state and local funds to best serve children."
But Reinders questioned the validity of a similar program in Illinois.
"As a transportation director, I have a number of concerns," he said. "I know there are districts in Illinois that use a variety of modes to get students to and from school. Taxi/Cab comes to mind, and the challenge there is, as I understand the law, every driver that is paid to transport students to and from school must have a school bus permit."
Reinders said the difficulty is ensuring that ride-sharing and/or shuttle drivers comply with the permit requirement.