NOT IN SERVICE: Why Public Transit Must Aim to Serve Students
A Report from the Fund for Educational Excellence
In Baltimore, students going to school, extracurriculars, internships, and jobs face a consistent barrier: an inadequate transportation system.
For the 29,000 City Schools middle and high school students who rely on MTA public transit, this creates a significant set of challenges which beg the question: why hasn’t this been addressed, and what can we do about it now?
The Fund’s latest report, NOT IN SERVICE, examines how students experience public transportation in Baltimore and the implications that experience has for their education, employment and other opportunities. In one-on-one interviews, 274 current students reported long, multi-trip commutes, late arrivals, safety concerns, and more.
NOT IN SERVICE offers recommendations – many directly from students – for improvements to accommodate their needs and reverse the ongoing patterns of discriminatory disinvestment in Black and Brown communities. The report examines that history of disinvestment and, through individual student stories, illustrates its real-world impact as seen in the state of public transportation in Baltimore City.
NOT IN SERVICE: Why Public Transit Must Aim To Serve Students examines how students experience public transportation in Baltimore and the implications that experience has for their academic and career opportunities. Read the full report, with individual student stories and interviews, here.
Main Themes and Findings:
Lost learning time: Students cite unreliable public transportation as the primary reason for being late to school; which for some happens up to three times a week.
Missed opportunities: The unreliability of buses and the limited hours that student passes are accepted, prevent students from fully participating in after-school activities such as sports and clubs, internships, and jobs that help support their families.
Student safety: Students are often uncomfortable during their trip to school. Arguments and fights between adult passengers are a regular feature of students’ commutes, and sexual harassment is not infrequent.
Consider students: The MTA should consider the needs of student riders when planning regular bus service, including where students live, where schools are located, and school schedules.
Make rides free: City Schools students should have unlimited, free MTA access to get to school, after-school programs, internships, and jobs.
Increase frequency: Buses should run more frequently at times when students take them.
Combat Harassment: The MTA and Baltimore City should develop a joint initiative to combat sexual harassment and crime on and around public transit.
Red Line: Maryland should reactivate Red Line development to expand transportation options and efficiency to serve all Baltimore residents and students.
Experience Imani’s commute to Western High School on MTA buses in this documentary. Inconsistent public transit limited her ability to participate in extracurricular activities and often caused her to lose valuable in-class learning time because of frequent bus delays.
Postive Response for NOT IN SERVICE:
Our most recent report is based on interviews with 274 Baltimore City Public School students. Their stories illustrate consistently late or unpredictable bus arrivals, long commutes (some up to two hours), and exposure to adult fights and sexual harassment along their routes.
These stories have resonated with media, educational and youth organizations, civic leaders and city residents. They have brought attention to this longtime barrier to educational and personal success, which has already resulted in an enthusiastic call for transportation improvements.
Take a look at some of the recent media coverage of NOT IN SERVICE:
- WYPR’s On The Record with Sheilah Kast: “Students Rely On City Transit – Does It Work?”
- WMAR-2 News: “NOT IN SERVICE: Report highlights issues with public transit for students”
- Baltimore Sun: “Baltimore students travel to and from schools on a transportation system that wasn’t designed for them. A new report documents their struggles.”
- Baltimore Sun: Baltimore kids need a more reliable way to get to school | COMMENTARY
- Baltimore Sun: Maryland’s failure to invest in transit has shortchanged Baltimore students | READER COMMENTARY
- Baltimore Fishbowl: Report: Baltimore City students unsatisfied with public transit services
- Baltimore Business Journal: 8 things you need to know today
- WMAR-2 News: “Baltimore City Council Committee holds meeting to hear student experiences riding MTA buses to school”
- WYPR News: “City students face long public transit commutes to school”