District cuts yellow school buses for some Seattle students

Aug 23, 2011

When kids in Seattle head back to school in a few weeks, you might notice a lot more of them getting there on foot.

Some Seattle students who took yellow buses last year won’t have service this year. Others could have to wait at new stops, up to a half of a mile away from their homes. 

The district has consolidated several routes since moving to a neighborhood school assignment plan. It could make the flurry of getting kids ready in time to catch a school bus a distant memory for a lot of Seattle families.

Fewer students qualify for bus service

This year, 19,100 of the city’s public school students will ride a yellow coach. That's down from 27,500 two years ago.

Tom Bishop, transportation manager for the district, expects the number to drop even further:   

“A lot of our schools have excellent safe walk areas. And as you get assigned to your neighborhood attendance area school, I would say, as a general rule, 75 percent of those students now are going to have a safe walk to school rather than transportation.  So, we’re seeing, actually, a major reduction each year that the new student assignment plan has been in place of students that are going to require transportation.”

This year, that means about 80 fewer buses on the roads and big savings for the district. Not only will it shave an estimated $4-million off of its strained budget, but it’ll also get a kickback from the state for being “efficient.”

Families could see benefits

Bishop says buses could also become more efficient for students who will still qualify for service to their neighborhood schools:

“Routes will be 25 minutes or less. The bus stops will generally never change.  And, because we’re going to be trying to stay mostly on arterials, the buses will be much less likely to experience delays.  So, that’s something that’ll help the families come to expect consistency in the routing.”

A few school buses will still carry kids to schools outside of their assigned areas – but only for the next 2 years, unless they’re in a specialized program.

Students traveling long distances to high school and middle schools will get Orca cards. For the first time, that includes 1,050 middle schoolers who live more than 1.5 miles from school.

The district is still trying to work out transportation for about 250 kids who have no way to get to school.

On the web: