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Transportation Planning & Considerations

Cambridge-Isanti Schools has a complex challenge ahead and needs your input. We hope you'll take a few minutes to understand the problem, then share your feedback. 

We are considering two possible changes to our transportation model. This year we changed to a single-tier transportation system that is operating at 50% capacity. It works because many parents volunteered to drive their children this year due to the pandemic. It is unlikely the model can be sustained in the future because we face THREE challenges.

  1. Long Ride Times on our current model (up to 2 hours and 5 minutes for some students)
  2. There is a statewide shortage of bus drivers - and in Cambridge-Isanti - we have had to reduce the number of routes. This is a problem because our current model needs the greatest number of drivers.
  3. We have an aging bus fleet and budget cuts have deferred bus purchases. This is a problem because our current model needs the greatest number of buses.

There are pros and cons to each of the three models we are considering.  Complete our Transportation survey.

Transportation Model Definitions

Single-Tier Hub and Transfer Model (Pre 20-21 School Year)

In a Single-tier hub and transfer system, students in grades K-12 ride together from the bus stops in the morning to one of two transfer points (Cambridge Middle School and Isanti Intermediate School). These schools were set up as the transfer points because of the size of their bus loading zones. Most students would then transfer to other buses that go to the student’s school. In the afternoon, the opposite occurs. Students would board buses at the school they attend and would be driven to the transfer points where they would transfer to the final bus that would take them to their bus stop.

The district had been subdivided into two areas for busing that match the attendance areas of the schools. The first area is the Cambridge area which consists of Cambridge Primary, Cambridge Intermediate, and Cambridge Middle. Isanti area is the second area which consists of Isanti Primary, Isanti Intermediate, and Isanti Middle. Schools that encompass both areas include Cambridge-Isanti HS, Woodland Campus, and School for All Seasons. Our district is responsible for transportation for Arts and Science Academy students, Cambridge Christian School students, Rum River East/South students, and St. Scholastica students. 

Splitting the district into two geographic areas for transportation allows routes to be more efficient. For example, students who live and go to school in the Isanti area do not have to go all the way to Cambridge, and then transfer back to the Isanti area. This also limits the number of buses at each transfer site to a more manageable number. In this model, 70% of students transfer buses at one of the transfer points. 

The longest bus ride is 1 hour and 47 minutes. This system is cost-effective and requires more drivers and student supervision than some other models.

Single-Tier without Hub and Transfer (Current Model)

As a result of the pandemic, it was no longer safe to transfer approximately two thousand students twice per day. Therefore the district removed the transfer portion of the model. School times have been adjusted in order to allow all the busses to travel to and from each school dropping off or picking up students along the way.

The longest bus ride is 2 hours and 5 minutes. This model is less cost effective than the hub and transfer model and requires more drivers than some other models. 

Two-Tier Model

The two-tier model transports students in grades K-5 and 6-12 on separate buses. This model functions by transporting students from a select set of schools first, then repeats the process for another select set of schools at a later time. Select schools are typically separated by level of schooling (ie. elementary and secondary). The same process takes place in the afternoon. School start and end times are adjusted to accommodate both tiers. School times in each tier need to be separated by at least an hour. The longer the time between both tiers, the more students and the more efficient the routes can be on the second tier.

A two-tier model reduces the number of routes (fewer buses and drivers needed), but it increases the hours and the miles the bus travels in a day.

The longest bus ride is 1 hour 5 minutes. 


Pros & Cons for Each Model 




One-Tier Hub and Transfer Model

  • Very efficient system picking up K-12
  • Lowest mileage (on buses) of all 3 scenarios
  • The community is used to this system
  • Requires more buses and drivers than a two-tier model
    • Current driver shortage
  • Student ride time is very long (up to 2 hours compared to one hour each way).
  • Parent concerns because students in K-12 ride together
  • Students have to transfer busses
  • School times have to be staggered to allow transfers
  • Requires supervision at hub sites
  • More difficult to operate with COVID protocols
  • Requires students to sit idle on buses at transfer hubs where behaviors escalate. 

Two-Tier Model

  • Shortest student ride times
  • Very few transfers
  • Less need to contract routes for after school
  • Lower number of buses needed
  • Lower number of drivers needed
  • Grade K-5 and grades 6-12 would ride separately
  • No supervision needed at hub sites
  • Easier to operate with COVID protocols
  • Sleep Studies - research shows that younger students perform better earlier in the mornings and older students perform better when start times are later, leading to more sleep.
  • School times would have to be adjusted (Early and Later) 
  • Slightly increased operational cost and miles on buses; less capital cost (one-time savings).


Cambridge-Isanti’s Current Challenges

Cambridge–Isanti Schools’s transportation department has been challenged by a severe national driver shortage that currently exists. The transportation department has needed to place all staff from the garage (including mechanics and office staff), who are qualified to drive a bus, on a bus daily as sub drivers. The department has had to eliminate 2.5 routes due to driver shortages. The Transportation Department has also started contracting out athletic trips that are beyond our capacity, which is expensive.

Some of the school district buses need replacing. For the past few years, the district has not purchased school buses because of budget cuts. Deferring bus replacements is causing our buses to get older and have more miles, which increases maintenance costs required to meet state standards. It also increases future costs, since the cost of buses continues to increase.