By foot, bus or car: Children's school travel and school choice policy

Elizabeth J. Wilson, Julian Marshall, Ryan Wilson, Kevin J. Krizek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

113 Scopus citations


Many school districts in the United States allow parents to choose which school their child attends (̀school choice' or ̀magnet schools') while other school districts require students to attend their nearest (̀neighborhood') school. Such policies influence children's transportation. We survey elementary-school parents in St. Paul and Roseville, Minnesota, to discover how children travel to school and underlying factors influencing parent's choice of their child's travel mode. From this information we develop a statistical model of travel mode choice. We find that children's commute mode and parental attitudes towards school selection differ by school type (magnet versus neighbor-hood), income, and race. Relative to neighborhood schools, magnet schools draw from broader geographic regions, have lower rates of walking, bicycling, and commuting by automobile, and higher busing rates. Parent attitudes towards transportation also differ by race and school type. For example, parents of nonwhite and magnet school students placed greater-than-average importance on bus service and quality. This paper highlights the potentially unintended influence of school district policy on school commute mode.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2168-2185
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironment and Planning A
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2010


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