The availability of Student Mobility Scholarships would expand the range of services and providers for transporting students to school beyond what state law currently requires. School districts and charter schools could receive funding from families who qualify for these scholarships if they provide these families with the transportation services they need, and this might encourage them to provide additional bus routes, or even operate smaller vehicles to transport students, especially in less densely populated areas. Current law prohibits using a vehicle with a manufacturer's rated seating capacity of 11 or greater, except for the standard yellow bus, to carry students to school. A change in statute would give districts and charters greater flexibility to use larger passenger vans as a means to transport eligible students.
Student Mobility Scholarship recipients could direct funds to other providers as well, including public transit systems or state-approved ridesharing services. The most popular ridesharing services — Uber and Lyft — operate in a way that restricts on-demand access for users under age 18. This may complicate their ability to participate without the presence of an adult chaperone.
However, a couple of fast-growing companies that operate in other states have been billed as ridesharing for kids. HopSkipDrive and Zum have secured appropriate insurance policies and added parent communication protocols that enable their drivers to transport unaccompanied minors. These companies are based in different parts of California, but are active in places like Colorado, Illinois, Texas and Virginia, and continue to expand. While neither currently operates in Michigan, they have experience partnering with schools and other government agencies to help get children places where they need to go. To ensure a sufficient supply of drivers, parents could apply to work with a ridesharing service, providing opportunity for underserved families to gain additional income.
While ridesharing has grown in general familiarity and usage in recent years, a significant disparity still exists by geographic setting. Rural residents are dramatically less likely than their urban-dwelling counterparts to regularly use, or to have ever used, such a service. This is true largely because ridesharing services are less likely to be readily available in rural areas. As a result, the range of Student Mobility Scholarship provider options would be limited in some regions, though the program could ultimately serve students in most parts of the state.