School Districts: How to Save $694 Per Student

  • Posted on: 26 May 2019
  • By: chris_admin

How does your district handle students with multiple addresses? Situations created with divorced families, afternoon caregivers, special programs and other situations are likely adding $694 per situation. From our work with school districts most practices add unnecessary cost.

Here is an example to illustrate a common occurence. A student has divorced parents where both parents live within the zone eligible for transportation. The parents homes are along diffrent routes. The student is planning to alternate ridership between routes each week. Most districts hold a seat on both routes adding $694 (1) in cost to the transportation system since both routes have a seat for the same student each day.

Taking this example one step further, the student plans to be at their grandmothers every Wednesday. If the Grandmother lives along a third school bus route some districts will hold an open seat on all three buses adding another $694(1). If the grandmother lives within the zone not eligible for transportation the district would be holding seats on two buses that would never be used 20% of the time at a cost of $138.80.

Parents should realize that providing multiple addresses to be serviced by transportation is a request for the district to spend an additional $694 per address.  

School districts should follow the example of airlines who overbook knowing the percentage of passengers that will not show up. We think the best practice for students with multiple addresses is to not hold a seat open on any bus. Students with multiple addresses should be paired with the seat of a "no show" student. Parents should realize that providing multiple addresses to be serviced by transportation is a request for the district to spend an additional $694 per address. The load factor numbers we monitor show available seating more than 95% of the time in districts that do overbook. We think its okay to give parents a choice between a $700 bill to cover the cost of additional transportation service versus free "space availalble" transportation and needing to make occasional impromptu arrangements for their child. Politically, this may or may not work in your school community. 

During the first week of school overbooking creates a problem with overloaded buses. This problem normally subsides within a week as student activities and schedules normalize ridership. As a point of fact, most districts that overbook don't provide accomodation for students that are left without a seat. Instead those buses run overloaded. Another approach is to have extra buses and a plan to handle the overflow during peak times. 

Districts should be spot checking the load factor(2) of each route to measure waste. You don't need any fancy technology. Have your drivers do a head count of the fully loaded bus in the morning and afternoon. In most districts you are going to find tons of excess capacity! If its not too depressing you can figure out how many empty seats per bus and calcuate the cost waste. Your district is doing an outstanding job of routing if your load factor is above 80%.


  1. Per passenger cost of 72 passenger school bus per year $50,000/72 passenger= $694
  2. Load factor is the number of passengers divided by the number of available seats. A bus with 50 seats and 30 passengers has a load factor of 60%.
Other Cost Savings: In an earlier blog we discussed idle time and fuel efficiency as run away cost when left unchecked. This information may be helpful to you if you do not have a method to keep check on idle time or fuel efficiency. You don't need any special technology to do either.