Twin Cities High School Students Head Back to School and onto the Public Bus
As teens head back to school this fall, many high school students at Minneapolis Public Schools and Saint Paul Public Schools are making the switch from riding a yellow school bus to finding their own way to get to the classroom for the first time. For many families, dealing with transportation to and from school can be overwhelming. But this is also a great time to support students’ use of public transit—building skills and confidence that will serve teens not only throughout the school year but also well beyond graduation.
In most cases, Minneapolis and Saint Paul school districts provide school bus services to elementary and middle school students. In high school, students can access Metro Transit. For the 2022-2023 school year, all public high schools in Minneapolis and the majority in Saint Paul are giving eligible students unlimited Go-To passes. Students whose Individualized Educational Plans require a yellow school bus will still have that accommodation provided.
Saint Paul schools participating in the transition from yellow school buses to public transit and providing unlimited passes are: Central High School, Como Park Senior, Harding High School, LEAP, Washington Technology Magnet, Johnson High School, Gateway to College, Gordon Parks, and Creative Arts Secondary.
Still, many students don’t know enough about riding public transit.
Through our new Changing the Schools Commute initiative, Move Minnesota aims to help more local students use public transit and to make this a positive transition. Move Minnesota is building relationships at the district level for Saint Paul and Minneapolis public schools to ensure we properly research and learn from those directly impacted by the change from yellow school buses to public transit. We are holding discussion groups with students this October to discuss their thoughts, feelings, concerns, and questions about public transit, to help with a smoother transition for all students. As we learn more about students’ experiences, we will expand our project with educational bus experiences, training for staff, and further discussion on how to make public transit an easy option for all Saint Paul and Minneapolis public high schoolers.
Encouraging public transit use in high school—especially before students get to driving age or before the social pressures and habits of driving everywhere are strongly reinforced—has big potential upsides for students, families, and our communities at large.
- Independence. Teaching students transit independence enables them to get to class and also to transport themselves to common after-school activities, like work and off-campus study groups, without having to rely on access to a car or someone to drive them.
- Safer streets. By reducing the number of cars on the road at the beginning and end of each school day, we can reduce traffic crashes, making school transportation safer for everyone.
- Cost savings. Increasing public transit use can alleviate the financial strain that car ownership typically puts on families. The average cost of maintaining a vehicle per year has not stopped growing, with the state average being $6,400 a year in 2019. And it gets higher when you include insurance rates for teenage drivers.
- Health. Countless journals have explored the weighty correlation between vehicle pollution and asthma rates. The rates are not to be understated; one study in particular found 2 million new cases of asthma in children every year, predominantly caused by vehicle emissions. By reducing usage of single-occupancy vehicles for the daily school commute, we can improve health and reduce asthma rates in our kids here in the Twin Cities.
If you are a Minneapolis Public Schools or Saint Paul Public Schools staff member, parent, or caregiver who would like to know more or be further engaged in this initiative, please email MollyBH@movemn.org to connect with our team!