School bus vs private vehicle transportation vs biking and walking to school--how much does it cost, how much do you save?

The Missouri Safe Routes to School Network is working to encourage more kids to bicycle and walk to school, whenever possible.

We know that school bus transportation is cheaper, better for the environment, and often better for kids, than being driven in private automobiles.

And we know that walking and bicycling, when feasible and safe, is cheaper, healthier, and generally better for most kids than either of the other options.

But let's do it by the numbers.

Senator Kit Bonds joins the Walking School Bus
Senator Kit Bonds joins the Walking School Bus

In 2007/08, the last year for which figures are available, here is the total U.S. cost of school bus transportation:

  • 25,221,000 students transported
  • 54.6 % of total students were transported
  • $21.5 billion total cost
  • $854 annual cost per student transported
  • Transportation makes up 4.25% of the total cost of our K-12 education system ($21.5 billion of the $596.6 billion total)

Compared with driving students in private automobiles, students riding buses save:

  • 347 million vehicle miles each day
  • 64.2 billion vehicle miles annually
  • $6.1 billion dollars on fuel cost annually

Compared with driving every day, a typical student who bicycles or walks to school receives this amount of savings and benefits:

  • Bicycling: $2224 per year
  • Walking: $1797 per year

Busing, bicycling, and walking all save huge amounts of money--especially when those dollar amounts are multiplied by the approximately 50 million K-12 school students in the U.S.

Busing makes sense for the further distances--the average length of a one-way bus trip is five miles--while bicycling and walking make more sense for the closer distances.

Want to calculate your own savings and benefits?  

You can also download MoBikeFed's Bicycling/Walking Savings Calculator for adults/non-students (Excel file).