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The Causes and Consequences of Rising Bus Costs

The Causes and Consequences of Rising Bus Costs

Buses are a critical part of the school experience, whether it’s taking the bus to a sports game, concert, or field trip. Without them, transportation to school-related events would be near impossible. Bus prices for Hastings schools and other schools in Westchester have recently soared. According to Ms. Maureen Caraballo, the Hastings district Treasurer who has worked in Hastings for almost 27 years, bus prices have always been high. However, in the past four to five years they have risen tremendously. Ms. Caraballo gave insight into the causes and potential solutions for this issue as well as how it is affecting school finances.

Most people might assume that the reason for the high bus prices is because of inflation, and, although that is true, there are other contributing factors. Ms. Caraballo explained that more bus drivers have unionized in recent years. This benefits bus drivers with higher pay, along with insurance and other advantages. However, the unions require bus companies to spend more money on paying bus drivers which ultimately costs the school more money. Furthermore, since the pandemic, there has been a decline in the number of bus drivers, so bus companies have to incentify bus drivers to work for them with higher salaries. These extra charges cost the school more money. The district also pays for its own gas, so rising gas prices, caused by inflation, impact bus costs. 

There are possible solutions to decrease the bus costs for our school, however. Ms. Caraballo explained that it would be expensive, and the school would have to invest to save money over time. The logical solution is for Hastings to purchase its own buses, which would save money because bus companies charge extra to make a profit. However, buying buses would initially be very expensive and would also require a garage to store the buses. Additionally, Hastings wouldn’t be able to buy enough buses to support its needs, and would therefore have to share buses with another school. Hastings currently shares buses with Ardsley, Dobbs Ferry, Edgemont, Irvington, and occasionally other schools. Purchasing buses to share with these schools would allow Hastings to own buses and cut the extra cost of company profits. 

Another factor to consider is that according to the New York Government, “[Governor Kathy Hochul will] require all new school buses sold in New York State be zero-emission by 2027 and all school buses on the road be zero-emission by 2035.” This means that if the school were to purchase its own buses, they would have to be electric vehicles, which are, according to Ms. Caraballo, three times more expensive than regular buses, and require specific charging infrastructure. Purchasing electric buses would be expensive, but the investment would help the school save money over time.

Unfortunately, Hastings isn’t the only school struggling with this issue. According to Ms. Caraballo, Irvington, Dobbs Ferry, Ardsley, and other schools spend significantly more money on buses than Hastings because they bus students to and from school from Kindergarten to twelfth grade, whereas Hastings mostly only buses elementary school students to and from school. Luckily for Hastings, there haven’t been any cutbacks on programs, and according to Ms. Caraballo, activities haven’t been directly affected by a lack of buses. However, rising bus costs cause more stress for students and teachers about transportation. Additionally, the district has to be aware of rising costs and can’t spend as much money on new or extra initiatives because of the rising costs.

Currently, the school is working to solve this issue, but because of the many financial constraints, they have their work set out for them. 

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