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Transportation is a key barrier to children getting to and from school each and every day.

In Allegheny County alone, school transportation cost school districts over $150 million dollars each year. Districts transport over 130,000 students each day. Allies for Children has conducted both qualitative and quantitative research for information surrounding pupil transportation in Allegheny County. The report includes local, statewide and national innovative pupil transportation methods. The main purpose of this report is to understand the current state of school transportation, the statewide formula and how the student population requiring transportation has changed. The final At the Crossroads: School Transportation in Allegheny County report was published in January of 2018 and is available the Resource page.

The report found there were many challenges facing school districts.

  • Federal and State Transportation Mandates
  • Varying School Calendars and Start/End Times
  • School Bus Driver Shortage

Allies for Children is working to improve the student transportation system in Allegheny County by promoting and implementing a shared transportation service model focused on transporting charter and nonpublic school students. Allies for Children was successful in having two districts share transportation services for a minimal number of students. Additionally, more than 170 students started utilizing public transportation for their school transportation services. Through this initial success, an opportunity presented itself to move the project forward and create a larger initiative with more districts and inessence a larger impact. The overarching goal of this work is to create systematic change that improves the school transportation system for students throughout the county. One of the main barriers for districts to work together is not having software that works across district lines, making it difficult to see where existing routes overlap.

Allies for Children and partners have been working with eight school districts in Allegheny County to see how sharing services to transport students attending charter and non-public schools could benefit the efficiency and cost of school transportation. In 2020, Allies for Children partnered with Carnegie Mellon’s Metro21 team to conceptualize what shard routes could look like between partnering districts. With 43 school districts in Allegheny County, the solution is a complicated one that Allies for Children and partners continue to strive towards.

Initially, Allies for Children focused on the utilization of crossing guards. Crossing guards provide students with more than a hand to hold when crossing the street or a smiling face when heading to school. They also impact attendance. Route safety is directly linked to children getting to and from school and out-of-school programs. In addition, crossing guards often serve as mentors. In April 2015, Allies for Children published a comprehensive crossing guards study.

The study examined how crossing guards, who are often the first uniformed individuals young people encounter, can serve multiple roles with a primary emphasis on safety and mentoring. This research was given to the City of Pittsburgh and Mayor William Peduto, who quickly established working groups to begin implementing the recommendations developed through the research. Since the creation of the working group,  the City of Pittsburgh expedited the hiring process for crossing guards and increased training opportunities. Crossing guards completed the Everyday Mentors program, an initiative of The Mentoring Partnership of Southwestern Pennsylvania that empowers adults who regularly interact with young people to make an even bigger impact, and a Simple Interactions video series produced by the Fred Rogers Center.

Additionally, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police activated a text alert system to notify crossing guards about emergencies in surrounding areas and equipped crossing guards with two-way radios. New police cadets also shadow crossing guards to further strengthen the relationship with cross guards. And for the first time, the City and the school district collected, shared and mapped data around students walking to and from school and afterschool programs, which helps determine potential route hazards. Crossing guards are also armed with resource cards, to connect children and families to essential services.

Download The Crossing Guards Study now or read the report in its entirety below: