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Posted on Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:55 a.m.

Ann Arbor school officials release transportation report

By Danielle Arndt


A committee established to study transportation options for the Ann Arbor Public Schools submitted its first report to the Board of Education. Transportation is expected to be on the chopping block again in the 2013-14 academic year budget.

Ann Arbor school board members looked at various transportation costs and options Wednesday night, in a report prepared by a committee studying the future of busing in the district.

The Board of Education resolved in May for Superintendent Patricia Green to create a “transportation working group” comprised of various community members, government and school officials and transportation experts.

The group’s task was to determine the financial sustainability of student transportation in the Ann Arbor Public Schools.

According to the report, AAPS spends a total of about $5.6 million on transportation annually.

The transportation of general education students equates for approximately $4.8 million of the total, while transporting special education students costs $577,000 and transporting homeless students costs $165,000.

Districts have a legal obligation to provide transportation to homeless and special needs children.

Breaking down the general education costs, AAPS pays about $1.33 million to bus elementary students, about $1.07 million to bus middle school students, $768,000 to bus high school students, $336,000 to bus preschoolers and another nearly $600,000 for mid-day and after-school transportation. This is a total of $4.1 million spent on busing costs alone.

The remaining approximately $700,000 is fixed administrative and operational costs, such as mechanics and the director’s wages that would not necessarily be reduced if the district eliminated a portion of its busing services, said Deputy Superintendent of Operations Robert Allen.

The transportation committee identified and analyzed 12 options of transporting students to determine which could result in a net savings and which were the most feasible. Of the 12, three were eliminated as not feasible almost right away, while four were recommended to the board for further consideration:

  • 1. Make pedestrian infrastructure improvements and maximize the use of crossing guards to reduce safety-busing costs.
  • 2. Rerouting.
  • 3. Increase the use of Ann Arbor Transportation Authority bus routes.
  • 4. Eliminate all choice busing for all students.

Allen explained AAPS currently employs a 1.5-mile walk zone, meaning students who reside within 1.5 miles of their neighborhood schools are not eligible for transportation services. The exception to that rule is if an area is deemed unsafe for students to walk to school — for example, if there are “sidewalk gaps” — then AAPS has safety bus routes for those children, Allen said.

“We’d work with the city to look at trying to potentially address those sidewalk gaps where, because of a lack of sidewalk, it makes it a little more hazardous for students to walk,” he said, adding if the sidewalks were addressed, AAPS could place crossing guards along these stretches instead.

The cost to operate one bus route is $14,000, compared to the $5,800 cost of a crossing guard, Allen said.

Eliminating transportation to and from the district’s “choice” schools would include Ann Arbor Open, Community High School, the Roberto Clemente Student Development Center and those students enrolled in Skyline High School through the lottery system.

Allen said there currently are 60 bus routes that qualify as choice busing.

Last budget cycle, there was talk among board members of cutting just one or two aspects of the choice busing. However, Allen said the transportation committee discussed being against this idea for equity reasons. The working group stressed cutting all or none of the choice busing.

  • Download the complete the transportation working group presentation.
  • Visit the school board’s BoardDocs website here to download the complete transportation committee report.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 1:47 a.m.

Great we do not have money for transporting the students to school,Or paying our bus drivers a livable wage but we can afford to pay the Superintendent a half a million dollars plus all the bells, and whistles. As tax payers we should be feed up with the way these boards continue to throw money at administrators only then to cry to the public all other staff members to keep taking cuts or better yet lose their job period. And we wonder why parents are looking into other schools choices than are public schools its simple the ones who continue to make the decisions which hurt our public schools are never being held accountable for the mistakes which hurt the kids,and schools but the teachers and support staff well they seem to be the scape goat for all sins. How sad!!!


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 2:08 a.m.

Thank you. The school bus drivers need all the help they can get when Balas won't cut their staffing nor lock the teacher pay raises for 5 years. O wait. They did and will reimburse them after that. AAPS? I think the system is broke.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 7:34 p.m.

Why are we paying to provide transportation to pre-schoolers? That should be the first thing to be cut!


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 2:07 a.m.

And how do they get to school? This is head start. I think the state pays for this one.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 6:57 p.m.

Can't wait to hear the parents go nuts. We need to cut Balas to make this work. Need to cut staffing at Balas. What a nightmare. Can't wait to see who does not have a job next year. AAPS budgets to save its own neck. AATA does not go to out lying areas and those who do not have cars? Will not go to school. Making an elementary child walk to school is so petty.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 5:26 p.m.

What is the difference between "gross" and "net" for special education students? The transportation report says gross is $1.950 million and net is .577 million. Who picks up the difference?

Danielle Arndt

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 8:53 p.m.

dotdash, ThinkingOne is correct. School districts receive state and federal grant money to provide certain legally required services for special education children. And each local school district is reimbursed through its ISD for providing those services.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 6:15 p.m.

Many services, not just transportation, that serve special ed students are funded through the state and the ISD (intermediate school district). The costs are reimbursed at a percentage that is less than 100%.

Dog Guy

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

The photo above illustrates a parent's budgetary puzzle: If girls' clothes take only 10% of the cloth of boys' clothes, why does dressing a daughter for school cost ten times as much as a son?


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:59 p.m.

"$336,000 to bus preschoolers and another nearly $600,000 for mid-day and after-school transportation. " ??????????


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:32 p.m.

The problem with this is simple. It is a process that is designed by the administration to make parents angry. Angry with the state government, angry enough that in a year, voters will approve a county wide millage by overwhelming the votes of the rest of the county. It is a ploy by Mr. Allan and his allies to create the most pain possible for the parents and students in the district. If it was not, there would be serious discussions of reducing administrative costs both on building and central administration, there would be serious negotiations with the Ann Arbor Administrators Association. But there are not. While some bussing is poorly thought out from legacy routing issues, the reality is that bussing is a smaller part of the budget than Varsity Athletics. Here is one to chew on - who ends up with the highest level of absence when busing ends? Families with good jobs and cars or people who are living on the margin? Who needs to be in class more? Children of parents with marginal incomes or families with high paying jobs? The reduction in busing has been shown by several studies to hit the children who need to be in class the most, the hardest. In short cutting busing is another form of discrimination. Not that the board of education will ever admit to it.


Fri, Dec 21, 2012 : 1:21 p.m.

anonymous - You may pay higher CITY taxes, but the school taxes are the same for everyone in the AAPS district. Your CITY taxes have nothing to do with the school costs/funding/operation. Many of the low income children live in trailer parks in the townships outside the city limits. Others live on the very fringes of the city. It is the low income children whose families need transportation support and school the most. AND it is these children who are bused across town to schools miles from their neighborhood school. You decide what it is when you say to a low income family - "No we are not going to bus your children" and "No have to attend this school on the other side of town"

Basic Bob

Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 8:17 p.m.

@anonymous, Township residents pay the same taxes for schools. Let me say that again. Exactly the same millage as people in the city. Now certainly you pay higher taxes for Public Art, AATA, police and fire. Does the city share any of that money with the schools to benefit either city or township residents? NO. Many of the low income residents are primarily located inside the city but only barely, on places like Ellsworth Rd. They are bused in to the middle of the city where there are more schools and less children. Of course that is not a concern of the city planners to determine where the schools are located. That is up to the schools to figure out. And how much property tax do they pay?


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 6:40 p.m.

DonBee, First of, cutting busing is not a form of discrimination. It's not based on color of skin, it's based on distance to schools. Furthermore, not everyone receives busing. Those of us who live within a 1.5 mile radius of the school have to pay for our own transportation or let our kids walk. (Great thing to do these dark, cold mornings.) That's discriminatory. Additionally, all the people who live out in the townships but attend AAPS and receive busing pay far lower taxes than those of us within the city limits. Another inequity. If we, as the committee suggested, switched to sending kids to local schools instead of busing them across town, the kids you are most concerned about could stay in school and we could save money by not busing. Or, we could charge for busing, raise income for the school district and then give those kids who live in the 1 mile to 1.5 mile radius a way to get a ride to school other than by an upperclassman.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 1:12 p.m.

I know there's already been some consolidation of bus routes at least for high school students. Taking a bus from Huron High School to just south of Ellsworth along Platt, which is about 5 miles, takes an hour because of all the stops and the fact that bus is packed, sometimes 3 students per seat. Unfortunately AATA doesn't run south of Ellsworth so not too many other options.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 12:37 p.m.

Is it time to stop bussing from out of area simply to promote diversity? How about not splitting neighborhoods up to accomodate affirmative action? We need redistricting back to where it was in the 80s. It is a patchwork and results in busses passing each other but going to different schools. No money to bus in time to stop bussing for diversity.


Thu, Dec 20, 2012 : 11:33 a.m.

Oh boy here we go again. What about all the families that don't have a spare car for the elementary students to drive. Just kidding. But seriously what about all the families that can not afford to provide their 16 years with a car. What will happen to attendance for those students. I don't know what the answer is for the loss of state and federal monies. But busing .......