Homeless Student Transportation Project Evaluation

Washington State funded pilot homeless student transportation programs from 2004-2006 to implement provisions of the McKinney-Vento homeless Education Assistance Act (2001). The Act requires school districts to provide transportation to homeless students wishing to remain in their school of origin. This formative evaluation addressed four questions about those pilot efforts: (1) what modes of transportation were used; (2) what did they cost; (3) which were preferred; and (4) did staying in the school of origin affect students’ academic performance? The study analyzed ridership and cost data from eight educational service districts and interviewed homeless students, parents, transportation coordinators, and homeless liaisons. Findings include the following:

  • Districts used a wide array of methods to transport students, employing school buses, public transit, vans, taxis, private vehicles, fuel vouchers, mileage reimbursement, and transportation brokerage systems. School buses provided 38 percent of the trips, followed by third-party brokered transportation (cars, taxis, and vans) at 28 percent, and public transit at 22 percent.
  • Homeless student transportation was usually expensive. The cost to the school districts of one-way homeless student trips varied widely depending on locality and mode, from a low of $0.14 to a high of $54. Public bus service was the least costly mode; however, it was used mostly for older students and only available in selected areas. The cost for providing homeless students with public bus service ranged from $0.14 to $1.00 per one-way trip. By comparison, the cost for providing homeless students a oneway trip via school bus ranged from $4.50 to $54. (The average cost for a one-way school bus trip for the general student population is about $0.67.)
  • Staying in one’s school of origin was associated with better Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) scores. In our limited data set, homeless students had lower grade point averages and lower WASL scores than the general student population. However, among homeless students, those staying in their school of origin achieved better WASL scores and better high school grades than those who changed schools.


Publication Date: 
Friday, December 1, 2006
Publication Number: 
WA-RD 665.1
Last modified: 
10/12/2016 - 15:42
Daniel Carlson, Sheri Reder, Nathalie Jones, Andrea Lee.
Washington State Transportation Center (TRAC)
Number of Pages: 
Public transit, Homeless persons, Students, School dropouts, Tests, Performance, Travel costs, Public passenger vehicles, Local transportation, Transit buses, School buses.