September 12, 2012
A number of Kansas City Public Schools’ students aren’t transported to school by traditional means. Instead of a bus or mom’s car, they’re taking taxis.
This school year, KCPS has approved an $883,815 contract with the Yellow Cab of Kansas City to provide taxi services for students.
“The void that cabs fill is the long-haul need for a single student or small group of students (four or less) that if transported by bus would cost the district significantly more money to do so,” said Patrick Kneib, KCPS director of transportation.
While a school bus costs $80 per trip on average, a taxi costs less than $17 per trip, he explained.
Students using the taxi service include those who are homeless and need transportation between the KCPS district and surrounding school districts, those enrolled in special education who attend schools outside their attendance boundary or outside the district, special education students whose “least restrictive environment” is best served by a taxi cab and those who have a combination of special needs and living arrangements where a bus is not the best option due to handicap accessibility.
KCPS tries to limit a student’s trip to one hour, he said.
Aija Tenney, KCPS program coordinator for Students in Transition, said the district uses several criteria to define homelessness. Definitions include: temporarily “doubled-up” with relatives or friends due to loss of housing, economic hardship or similar issues; living in motels, hotels and campgrounds; living in emergency or transitional shelters; waiting for foster care placement; runaway youth and those not living with a legal guardian; and living in housing without lights, heat or water.
The Students in Transition department served 1,101 homeless students last year and KCPS expects those numbers to increase this year, she said.
Last year, students using taxi cabs fluctuated between 50 and 250. When possible, students ride together in taxis, and each driver undergoes an extensive background check.
“Our district has some of the most stringent requirements in the region in this regard,” Kneib said of the background checks.
Using taxi cabs is a KCPS tradition that dates back to the late 1980s when KCPS launched the magnet schools, Kneib said.
“Using buses to transport students great distances became very expensive due to ride times and the number of buses needed to accomplish the work – not to mention fuel costs, which are factored into bus contracts and are much higher for buses than taxis,” he said.
Kneib summed up the taxi service by saying, “Our cab vendor is the most technologically advanced vendor we use, they are the most responsive and historically, they have the highest safety and customer satisfaction ratings amongst our transportation vehicle vendors.”