School Students Using Public Transportation – Pros and Cons
Monday December 24, 2018
The decision to send our kids through public transportation (buses/trains) is, at the outset, a simple one. Most parents would, if they had infinite time and money, choose to drop them off themselves.
Sadly though, this is not the case for a large majority. With limited time and money, juggling responsibilities, they do a cost-benefit analysis. Interestingly enough, these are not the only reasons why the decision is taken.
While the alternatives to public transportation include the children cycling or walking to schools themselves, we will be primarily concerned with private cars (including carpooling) as the choice of public transportation, by default, assuming that there is some distance to be covered to reach the school.
Pros of Using Public Transportation
- Minimum ambiguity, Maximum discipline
There won’t be any last minute dashes due to a parent’s hectic schedule. There is a scheduled stop at a scheduled time and the child needs to be there.
If the child doesn’t reach the stop on time, he/she will have to wait for the next bus. Through trial and error, the child knows for certain which bus she needs to catch.
- A Multitude of Choices
The child has several choices for spending his/her time. From enjoying the solitude to making friends and spending time with them, to spending time reading or studying, the child makes the time of his/her own.
- A Question of Friendship
Studies have shown that the adults who have close long-term friendships do better than their less social counterparts. This is especially important as the age when the child is attending middle school and/or high school is when intimate friendships are most often born.
Public transportation provides space for socialization and making friends with other children through frequent and regular interactions.
- A Dollar Saved is a Dollar Earned
Several families have significant financial constraints. Public transportation is a (relatively) safe option for them to send their kids to school. This becomes even more important if their neighbours are sending their kids to the same school through the same means.
- Stronger, Faster, Fitter
While this can’t be compared to children walking or cycling to school, children who travel to school via some mode of public transportation are fitter. This is shown through studies which reveal that public transit users, on average, take 30% more steps per day.
- A Question of Responsibility
Children who use public transport to go to school tend to become more independent and responsible at an earlier age than their peers. While public transportation may lead to nervousness among the parents, this quickly disappears as the child learns and demonstrates responsibility.
- A Benefit to Society
Apart from the increased car traffic and pollution and all the negatives that go with it, it has been seen that children who use public transit systems to get to school develop a healthy appreciation for public transport facilities.
And they have a greater tendency to use as well as support its use through adulthood. This is especially important to those areas where the public transport system is weak and needs to be strengthened.
Cons of Using Public Transportation
- Safety – The Primary Concern
While there are several benefits to public transportation, it cannot be denied that there is one area where private transport trumps it; by a fair way.
And this, in the opinion of many parents, is their single most important concern. This is especially true in difficult neighbourhoods. And while using public transit is certainly safer than walking to school, it doesn’t beat the family car in this respect.
- Harassment and Negative Experiences
Closely related to the above mentioned one, avoiding being bullied or harassed – and not having a proper channel to address it is an important factor for parents in choosing not to send their child through public transportation.
Children may also get traumatised by events they are not part of, but simply witness. Given these circumstances, in areas where public transportation is the only option, parents may choose to send their children to a suboptimal school as a result.
- Sharing is Caring
The primary reason for preferring private transportation to public transportation is that of safety. Parents often compromise due to the difficulty in taking children to their school amidst their own hectic schedules.
This is true especially when both parents are working. This can be mitigated by carpools, where parents of different children alternate the responsibility of taking them to school.
- The Hour Expands
Taking public transportation inevitably means that the child needs to spend more time in transit. From walking to their stop to wait for the bus to the longer routes (that have to be) taken by the bus; and back again while returning home.
This is more prominently seen for high schools, which are generally further away. This is a concern both with respect to time as well as safety.
- Discomfort and Overcrowding
Most schools start and end around the same time. So, when a bus comes along, it is possible that it may be overcrowded. And this makes for a negative experience for the child, which they may not be able to handle. This effect is even more prominent while returning home.
- Differing Standards
A study indicated that among children between the ages of 9 and 13, only 6% play outside a given week. At a time when parents are overprotective about their children, can we reasonably expect the children to be able to handle themselves in public settings?
With unfamiliar people? In a crowd? And then there’s the question of personality. Do they get anxious? Under difficult circumstances, will they be able to call the parent and communicate with them?
So there you have it. Why you should rely on public transportation for your children’s school travel. And why you shouldn’t. Priorities and personal preferences play a big role. But we hope this will help you make a more considered decision.