Safe Routes Scoop
Shrinking Budgets Bring Busing Blues


As transportation costs have risen and tax revenues available for education expenses have become constrained, New Jersey school districts are feeling the crunch.  Forced to operate within a fixed budget, many school districts have been forced  to reconfigure, consolidate or altogether cut a number of bus routes. In addition, many schools are implementing no-idling policies and rescheduling or canceling some field trips and extracurricular activities.


Under New Jersey law, boards of education are required to bus only those students who live more than two miles from school for grades K-8, and over two and a half miles for high school students. Many districts have also opted to bus students who live less than two miles from school, a service known as “hazardous” busing- to avoid a specific hazard on a student’s route to school- or “courtesy” busing - for any reason other than an identified hazard. In 2006, an estimated 200,000 students were provided courtesy or hazardous busing in the state, according to the New Jersey Department of Education.


Hazardous Busing

Routes are considered hazardous in New Jersey based on criteria such as high traffic volume, lack of sidewalks, presence of bridges and train tracks, and incidence of crime. State law makes clear that safety along public 

roadways and walkways is a municipal, rather than a school board, responsibility. As such, boards of education must work with municipal officials and police officers to deem a route “hazardous” under law. 


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SRTS can Address Elimination of Busing

Some communities worry that budget cuts for busing will increase traffic around schools, shift costs to parents struggling with volatile gas prices and lower attendance rates. But of greatest concern is the fear that the reductions will endanger students as more walk or bike to school. Implementing a Safe Routes to School Program prior to eliminating busing can help ease parental concerns by ensuring that children will be able to safely walk or bike to school and help ease parental concerns.


When Busing is Eliminated
In Somerville, school officials and the Somerset County Transportation Management Association (TMA), RideWise, collaborated to get kids walking to school again after the school district eliminated it’s courtesy busing program. According to Jim Crane, RideWise  project manager, implementing a Safe Routes to School program in Somerville was more about providing a new service and less about cutting courtesy busing.

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