Back to school on transit (part 2); what to consider before putting your kids on transit

In my first entry on this topic, I discussed why I think it’s important for kids to learn to use transit and a little bit of my own experience with my kids.

Is transit an option for your kids? Here are some things to help you figure that out – there are no right or wrong answers. Consider this a guide.

First, let me be clear, it’s not for everybody. As a parent, you need to decide what is right for you, your kid and your family at this time. It may change in the future. It may not. If it’s not right for you, it’s not right. PERIOD.

The first question to ask: Is my child ready to do this? Is your child generally responsible for their age?  Do they generally make good decisions? I would argue that, all other things being equal, almost all kids are probably up to taking transit to and from school by the time they’re in high school.

Other pertinent questions:

•Where is the stop relative to your home? Relative to their school? Immediately adjacent? A short walk away? Are there decent sidewalks? Will they have to cross streets? If so, what is the traffic like? Are there signals?

•What is the stop like after school? Let’s be clear, if it’s a school of any size, the bus stop is likely to be crowded right after school. But, presuming the buses are running with any frequency, the throng will clear in short order.
•Are there school personnel at the stop after school?  Some schools do this. I don’t think it is necessary and in my case, one of my kid’s schools had this and one didn’t. When school personnel are there and it works well, they help keep the kids somewhat orderly, encourage kids who don’t need to be hanging around after school to get on their way, assist with boarding the buses, equalizing loads or separating kids who shouldn’t be together.

•How often does the bus or train come?  In some cases, we’re able to build “extra” buses into the schedule to be at schools to help absorb the big but short-lived load at the end of the school day. Is your kid’s school one of these?

•Will your kid have to transfer?  Again, consider the conditions at the transfer stop and the frequency of both lines.

•How far do they have to travel? Do they have people to ride with for some or all of the way? Friends? Siblings? If they’re new at this, it’s probably better to have people around you that you know but, remember, friends can sometimes also distract your attention.

If you’re not familiar with the transit system in your area, and don’t know how to begin planning the trip to answer these questions, please consult our trip planner at to get started or try Google Transit. You may also want to consult people at the school who have kids that take transit.

For the years when our son took the Metro bus to school in the morning, my husband would walk him to the bus stop and send him on his way. More recently, he and my daughter would talk by phone in the afternoons when she walked from the bus stop till she got home. Apart from everything else, this created little moments of bonding time.

I’m sure you’re thinking of many more things to help you make a decision.  If you think you want to give it a try, come back for Part 3 in the series where I offer some more advice.