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Center for Transportation Studies

School Choice and Children's School Commuting

Elizabeth Wilson, Julian Marshall, Kevin Krizek, Ryan Wilson
January 2009
Report no. CTS 09-01


Some school districts allow parents to choose which school their child attends, a policy known as school choice. We study the impact of school choice on school transportation behavior. To do this, we examine the extent to which children?s commute mode and parental attitudes toward school selection and school travel differ by magnet versus neighborhood schools and by race. We conducted a survey of elementary-school parents to assess how children travel to school and identify underlying parental attitudes. Compared to national data, our sample of K-6 students had fewer children walking and traveling by personal vehicle, and more riding the school bus. Magnet (i.e. school choice) schools, which draw from broader geographic regions than neighborhood schools, have fewer students walking or biking to school and more students riding the bus rather than using a private automobile. Transportation attitudes and actions differ by school type and race. For example, compared to white parents, nonwhite parents are more concerned about availability and safety of school buses, and also are more likely to use school buses. This paper highlights the importance of school district policy on school transportation, mode choice, and the ability of students to walk or bike to school.

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