The Biden Administration just lately introduced a plan to improve one of the vital outdated programs within the U.S.: college transportation.

The federal program is offering practically $1 billion to 389 college districts in all 50 states to interchange previous diesel college buses with “clear,” largely electrical buses. It addresses half of a bigger concern that folks like me have expressed for years: College transportation is the biggest mass transit system within the U.S., serving roughly 25 million kids every single day. So why has it principally stayed the identical for many years, regardless of the dangers it poses to our children’ well being and security?

The issues with college transit lengthen past outdated, unsafe buses. The excellent news is that folks, educators, and elected officers are lastly coming collectively to spark change and search options.

The challenges: security, sustainability, and past

Over 90% of the nation’s 500,000 college buses run on diesel, emitting poisonous fumes that tens of millions of youngsters (and adults) breathe in every day. Transportation accounts for the biggest share of greenhouse gasoline emissions within the U.S., so changing the buses is definitely a step in the fitting route.

However why cease there? An improve ought to contemplate all features of the varsity transportation expertise, together with: 

  • Lengthy routes: Inefficient and rigid routes go away many kids sitting on college buses for hours. Scientific studies have proven that lengthy bus rides can negatively impression kids’s psychological well being and tutorial efficiency. Moreover, unpredictable departure and arrival instances put stress on dad and mom, inflicting them to be late for work and/or fear about the place their youngster is at any given time.
  • Excessive prices: College transportation prices $28 billion yearly, an enormous expense that some districts battle to afford. Faculties shouldn’t have to chop after-school packages so as to afford their bus system.
  • Issues of safety. College bus security largely hasn’t modified because the Sixties. Buses are previous and unsafe (most don’t have seat belts). Youngsters with particular wants lack the fitting assist. Drivers are untrained and unequipped–and this can be contributing to the nationwide college bus driver scarcity, which in flip has led to longer routes.
  • Communication issues: The present system is opaque and rigid. For a lot of households, it’s obscure and talk with.

When my children had been younger, I couldn’t assist however discover how the method of getting them round city hadn’t modified since my very own mom struggled with the identical challenges many years in the past, again in India. We have now made so many different features of our lives extra clear, versatile, and secure–usually with the help of trendy know-how. Absolutely, we might apply what we’ve realized to our children’ transportation.

Potential options

The varsity transportation disaster has reached a fever pitch, however many districts are already taking steps to enhance it.

This 12 months noticed a surge in electrical college bus purchases throughout the nation. Montgomery County Public Faculties in Maryland has the largest electric school bus fleet within the U.S.–and Seattle, Los Angeles, Houston, and different cities are following suit with new electrical buses.

Some districts are additionally implementing smaller automobiles, which cut back emissions, enhance routes, and cut back the variety of largely empty college buses on the street.

Some districts are embracing college bus routing software program that provides flexibility and optimization–they usually’re shortly recognizing that higher routes enhance the well-being of youngsters and drivers and cut back costs. Bettering routes with cutting-edge know-how that inform dad and mom their youngster’s college bus location in actual time is smart. If we will monitor a bundle on our telephones, certainly we will do the identical for our youngsters.

College bus drivers are valued and important staff, and plenty of select the job as a result of it offers them a way of function. It’s crucial that they obtain higher automobiles and extra coaching. Organizations like SPED Safe supply coaching packages to boost secure environments for all college students, particularly these with disabilities. Different packages deal with dealing with battle and de-escalation abilities.

Whether or not it’s so simple as placing seat belts in automobiles or integrating new know-how, every of those efforts helps guarantee kids’s security.

The street forward

We will work collectively as a private and non-private sector to have an effect on change at school transportation. Urge college districts to undertake electrical buses, and assist officers and organizations which can be dedicated to upgrading this outdated system.

It’s not simply dad and mom and kids who’re affected by college transit woes–it’s all of us. By prioritizing transparency, security, and sustainability, we will usher in a brand new period of college transportation.

Ritu Narayan is the founder and CEO of Zum, a know-how firm that companions with colleges to supply a next-generation pupil transportation answer.

The opinions expressed in commentary items are solely the views of their authors and don’t essentially replicate the opinions and beliefs of Fortune.

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