Gas prices driving school buses away

Rachel Dornhelm Sep 2, 2008

Gas prices driving school buses away

Rachel Dornhelm Sep 2, 2008


Bob Moon: How do your kids get to school? You might think that with gas prices so high, more kids would be taking the bus. But school districts across the country, from California to Alabama, and Massachusetts are cutting back on bus service. In the second of our “Back to School” series, Rachel Dornhelm reports on the fallout for many families.

Rachel Dornhelm: Second-grader Adrian Modesty opens his front door in a West Sacramento subdivision [sound of lock turning] and points down the block.

Adrian Modesty: There’s like a little park area over there.

Dornhelm: And is that where the bus came?


Adrian says he’s sad he can’t ride the bus to school. His mom, Tracy, has stronger words.

Tracy Modesty: You know, it was very, very stressful. Very stressful.

A week before school started, Tracy found out the Washington Unified School District was eliminating bus service for her older son. She would have to drive him. There went her new job at her younger kids’ preschool.

Tracy Modesty: I had to quickly type up a letter and say, “Hey, I’m so sorry, but due to the transportation issue I can’t accept the position.”

Now she won’t be able to work. But she says her income is so low that another preschool waived tuition for her two younger children.

Carmella Huerta, a West Sacramento mom, doesn’t know how to drive. Now it will take her half an hour to walk her two kids from her trailer to school. There is city bus service.

Carmella Huerta [through translator]: Yes, but we don’t have enough money to pay every day for the bus fare. We’d have to pay for all the kids.

Jim Gannon, transportation director for the Fremont schools in San Francisco’s South Bay, blames tight state budgets and soaring gas prices.

Jim Gannon: Just take that sticker shock and then apply it to a fleet of 42 vehicles serving 29 routes and field trips, and man, we’re talking some biiiig bucks.

Big bucks for families too.

Graham: Unfortunately, when a school board decides to cut school transportation services, basically what that’s doing is displacing the problem and it’s putting it off on families that are struggling with their own budgets.

Derek Graham is with the American School Bus Association. When you add up gas, babysitting expenses and lost work opportunities.

Graham: Ultimately, it’s going to cost the families more than it would the school district to start with.

I’m Rachel Dornhelm for Marketplace.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.