Some of Arizona’s highest-quality schools are unable to offer pupil transportation thanks to well-meaning but antiquated state law. Additionally, many of Arizona’s public schools cannot meet the geographic diversity of their students’ transportation needs through traditional 60-foot yellow school buses. These buses are expensive to acquire, operate, and maintain, and require a driver with a commercial driver’s license. Smaller, lower-cost vehicles would help students living in rural, geographically diverse areas of the state, but also assist urban families who have the opportunity to attend a school that is miles across town.
Senate Bill 1630 would make the following improvements to the way Arizona manages student transportation:
1. Enabling the use of 11-to-15 passenger vehicles
- Allows the use of 11-to-15 passenger vehicles that have been successfully and safely operated by transit agencies for decades.
- Permits these vehicles as a tailored, environmentally-friendly pupil transportation solution for rural, suburban, and urban areas.
- Includes generated route mileage in the Transportation Support Level.
2. Modernizing school transportation governance
- Renames School Bus Advisory Council to the Student Transportation Advisory Council.
- Increases council membership from 9 to 14 members to include representatives of public charter schools, with electric vehicle expertise, and the broader public.
- Encourages consideration of vehicles beyond the traditional yellow bus.
3. Assuring safety in pupil transportation
- Requires the Department of Public Safety to issue new regulations on 11-to-15 passenger vehicles used in pupil transportation.
- Requires operators of these vehicles to meet the same standards as yellow bus drivers, minus the commercial driver’s license required for operating heavy-duty trucks and buses.
- Any vehicle type must be assessed by the department before it can transport students.