Option School Transportation – Frequently Asked Questions

APS is delivering service to our Countywide programs via hub stops to ensure that our students get to school on time and are ready to learn, and we are efficiently using our limited resources.

What is a hub stop?
How are they established?
Which schools/programs will use hub stops?
Why is APS using hub stops for option schools?
What does the analysis show? 
What do you mean “‘use buses for more than two schools?”
Why can’t APS just add more buses? 
How will I know where the hub stops are? 
Why is the stop so much farther from my home? 
What are the benefits to families? 
Have the hub stops improved the performance of the bus system?
How do other school systems transport students to option programs?
Can I change my student’s stop if another works better for our family?

What is a hub stop? Hub stops are centralized locations—such as a school, library or community center—where students from several neighborhoods meet to catch the bus to their school and may be a longer distance from a student’s residence.  Not all neighborhoods will have a hub stop; rather stops are placed to be accessed from multiple neighborhoods and directions.

How are they established?   Our schools and other public facilities like libraries and community centers are our main hub locations since they tend to be places accessible from multiple neighborhoods, have room for many students to wait and available parking.  Other factors we evaluate include: housing density; the ability to capture a significant amount of an area in a one-mile walkshed or a school walk zone; ease of bus operability.  In some cases, there are no public facilities in an area, so other established bus stops are used.  This approach strikes a balance between too many stops picking up few students and establishing stops that were too far apart.

Which schools/programs will use hub stops?

  • Elementary:  Arlington Traditional School (ATS), Campbell Elementary (beginning Fall 2022) Claremont Immersion, Key Immersion, Montessori Public School of Arlington
  • Middle: Gunston Immersion & Montessori programs (for students who do not live in the Gunston boundary)
  • High: Arlington Career Center/Arlington Tech, H-B Woodlawn, Wakefield Immersion & AP Network (for students who do not live in the Wakefield boundary), W-L International Baccalaureate (for students who do not live in the W-L boundary)

*Gunston, Wakefield and W-L students who live closer to an in-boundary stop will be assigned to it instead.

Why is APS using hub stops for option schools? As APS continues to grow and our budget strains to meet the needs of the system, it is even more critical that we manage our resources as efficiently as possible.  Enrollment growth alone places more demands on the bus system.  Analysis of our bus transportation system shows that the way we currently deliver service to our Countywide programs creates inefficiencies that result in wasted resources.  APS Transportation Services must make changes to how we deliver bus service to Countywide programs to ensure our bus system as a whole operates more efficiently and can provide transportation for all eligible APS students.

What does the analysis show?  Students in Countywide programs come from all over the County, in some places with only one or two students getting on the bus at widely dispersed stops.  Some of the routes for these programs are very long (more than an hour), pick-ups very early (e.g., 7:30 for 9am start in some cases) and not arriving to school on time.   In addition to long rides and late arrivals, many of the longer Countywide routes make it impossible to use a bus for more than two schools and buses on some routes are more than half empty.  By centralizing stops for Countywide programs, we have been able to shorten our routes, pick up more students at each stop/route and use buses for more than two schools.

What do you mean “use buses for more than two schools?”  APS has a fleet of 200 buses.  About 60 of those are dedicated to special education transportation service, with the remainder for general education bus service.  We also must keep about 10% of the fleet available as spares should a bus have a maintenance issue or other problem that takes it out of service.  With the available fleet, APS makes about 400 trips to/from schools each morning and each afternoon.  In order to serve all those trips, buses are used multiple times.  As an example, bus route 406, with one bus and one driver, may serve three schools: Abingdon – an 8:00 am start; Wakefield an 8:20 am start; and, finally Drew – a 9:00 am start. 

Why can’t APS just add more buses?  There are several reasons why this is a challenge: 1) Budget – even before the pandemic, APS was dealing with a constrained financial situation. 2) Driver shortage – even if we had the funds to purchase buses, we have a driver shortage.  This is not just an APS issue, either.  It is industry wide. 3) Lack of bus parking – this is an issue unique to Arlington.  We have run out of land to park buses.  Further, as good financial stewards, we should seek to use the buses we have as efficiently as possible.  That means, transporting as many students as possible per bus.

How will I know where the hub stops are?  Each school has a map of their program’s stop locations.  Over the summer, APS also will upload a copy of the hub stop map for your school into your personal ParentVue account.

Why is the stop so much farther from my home?  More stops mean more travel time as buses make their way to student locations that are far from the school and far from one another.  Hub stops are a partnership between APS and families.  Families bring their students to centralized stops so buses can pick up more students at once. 

What are the benefits to families?  Long routes mean long rides and often early pick-ups relative to the start of school.  They can also mean buses do not arrive to school on time.  For elementary students, long rides can be especially difficult with students arriving to school stressed from the long ride.  Drivers also get stressed from dealing with traffic.  Shortening the trip with fewer stops means students arrive to school on time and ready to learn.

Have the hub stops improved the performance of the bus system? Yes, we already have seen success.  In Fall 2019, APS implemented hub stops for MPSA and H-B Woodlawn.  In both cases, we were able to reduce the number of buses serving the school by one and increase ridership on the remaining buses.  This was particularly important for H-B Woodlawn as its new location did not have much room to manage its buses.  MPSA, which had chronically late buses the previous year, now has buses consistently arriving on time.  Once hub stops are fully implemented for option programs we expect to see more system improvements. 

How do other schools systems transport students to option programs?  Fairfax County magnet schools pick up students from their home schools: https://www.fcps.edu/registration/elementary-magnet-school-lottery School districts APS used to benchmark in the Instructional Program Pathways review use similar approaches: Peer Benchmarks

Can I change my student’s hub stop if another works better for our family? Yes, if families find that a different hub stop would work better for them, because it is on the way to work or for some other reason, they can request a stop change by contacting the Transportation office by phone or email.