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Building Equitable Student Transportation (BEST)

Building Equitable Student Transportation 

Authors: Nancy Erbstein and Alex Karner

Affordable, convenient, and reliable transportation is fundamentally important to school success. Although prior generations of students relied on the iconic yellow bus for school travel, ongoing budget cuts have led to service being curtailed or eliminated across California school districts. Public transit systems are likely to play an increasingly important role in school access in this environment, but little is known about how well existing systems work to get students to school and the types of student populations that are well-served. In work generously funded by The California Endowment, CRC-affiliated faculty members Nancy Erbstein and Alex Karner have been filling this research gap and expanding Dr. Erbstein’s prior investigation of chronic absence in the Sacramento City Unified School District (SCUSD). The first phase of research was conducted in collaboration with the SCUSD, the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), and community advocates in both locations.

Phase 1

A first phase of research was conducted in collaboration with Sacramento Unified School District (SCUSD), San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), and community advocates in both locations.

This research explores how well public transit systems in the two districts function to link students to neighborhood schools, examines disparities in access to high-quality transit, and identifies neighborhoods with particularly high needs for public transit service. It employs publicly available data on transit routes and schedules and confidential student-level record data including student residence and school locations, demographics, and performance. Questions identified by stakeholders in each district also shaped specific research directions. In SCUSD, the research team investigated the effects of elementary school closures on travel distance to school, and in the SDUSD they examined the relationship between student performance and attendance at non-neighborhood schools. Future work will involve detailed surveys to determine the factors affecting how students choose to get to school and the barriers they face in making that journey.

Three research briefs for each district summarize findings. Please click the links below to view each brief.



Phase 2

In Spring 2018, a student survey was administered at three SCUSD schools to examine in more detail how students get to school, transportation barriers, and the relationship between transportation and school attendance.

A presentation of findings is available: SCUSD Travel Survey Presentation

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