The Ontario School Bus Association (OSBA) recognizes that the tremendous growth in need for student transportation has caused increased expenditure for this service over the past two decades. Every schoolday, approximately 800,000 students in Ontario are transported from their home to school and back again by school buses.
Climbing enrollment, constant refinement of the curriculum, the addition of Junior Kindergarten plus integration of special needs students, have all been driving forces behind the dramatic increase in the volume of school buses in service. Yet even during the high-growth years of 1974 to 1989, the per-bus cost increase for student transportation service in Ontario did not even keep pace with inflation.
As long as students require access to quality education, they will need access to transportation to schools. The OSBA believes that this vital public service must continue to be provided in a highly cost-efficient manner and it understands this need on the part of the government.
In 1989, the OSBA recommended restructuring the delivery of student transportation so that the overall efficiency of Ontario's school transportation network could be improved, expenditures stabilized, and safety and service levels maintained.
For example, staggering school hours, by even a few minutes, will allow the same school bus to run double or triple routes, the marginal cost of which is far less than that of running multiple vehicles. In many areas, coterminous boards can share transportation services by allowing elementary and secondary public school and separate school students to ride the same bus. This practice means that fewer vehicles will be utilized to a greater capacity.
Such efficiency measures are already in practice in some parts of the province. In fact, the Royal Commission on Learning recommended in its report: "...that neighboring boards co-operate as much as possible on as many matters as possible to make their operations more efficient." Too often, school boards need more immediate financial relief than that offered by restructuring the delivery of services and instead, they opt to cut services.
The OSBA also recommends that the Ministry of Education and Training incorporate additional financial incentives into the school transportation funding formula to encourage school boards to restructure while at the same time, fairly compensating the bus operators who incur additional recognized costs.
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