September 7, 2018

Purdue Polytechnic and IndyGo

WORKING TOGETHER — Students from Purdue Polytechnic, an IPS innovation school, visit the bus depot at IndyGo. The city’s public bus system helps some IPS high school students get to a from school, as well as throughout the city. 

Last year, Indianapolis Public Schools introduced all-choice high school options for the 2018-19 school year — allowing IPS students to enroll in a school that best serves their college and career aspirations versus being bound to one based on where they live.

But the concern was how transport students under this new choice — especially if students enrolled in schools that are clear across town from their homes.

The solution? Offer two modes of transportation: the district’s traditional yellow school bus or the city’s IndyGo public bus system (but only to a select group).

On May 1, 2018, IPS launched a pilot program offering Shortridge students IndyGo bus passes for the months of May and August so students could decide if they preferred city transit over the traditional bus service offered by the district.  

Shortridge was considered an ideal school to test the pilot program because of the high number of stops IndyGo offers on the Meridian Street corridor, and the support of principal Shane O’Day.

“The feedback so far has been positive,” said O’Day. “There were initial questions and concerns regarding safety and the access and frequency of routes, but these have become fewer as a greater number of students have begun using public transportation.”

O’Day estimates 60 percent of Shortridge students are currently using IndyGo over the school bus, and considers the partnership between IPS and IndyGo successful. It has also helped to build new skills, competencies and independence among Shortridge’s student population.  

“The partnership has really expanded our students’ ability to traverse the city by allowing them to not only travel to and from school, but also to internships, jobs and even to the movies,” said O’Day. 

O’Day said the partnership is not just good for students, but for the environment and city as well. “It is important that we continue to leverage our city’s resources and public services so that we may not only lower our environmental footprint but become advocates and good stewards of public transportation.”

The pilot program has expanded to include Arsenal Technical High School. Students at Shortridge and Arsenal Tech still have access to traditional IPS transportation during the pilot.

Before the IPS and IndyGo pilot program began at Shortridge and Tech, IndyGo had already been working with Indianapolis-based charter high schools Herron, Riverside and Purdue Polytechnic. All three are also members of IPS’ Innovation Network Schools.

Students at these schools have used IndyGo as their main form of school transportation since the beginning.  

A’Shaune R., a sophomore at Purdue Polytechnic, started using IndyGo during his freshman year. He prefers the freedom and flexibility that IndyGo offers.

“I like it. A lot of my friends ride IndyGo, and there are a lot of advantages,” said A’Shaune, who lives on the city’s far west side but attends school in downtown Indianapolis. “I can use it to go places that a normal school bus wouldn’t go and go at the time that works best for me.”

A’Shaune is member of the high school’s basketball team, which can mean before or after school practices and meetings. “Even though it takes me about 20 minutes longer to get to school, IndyGo works better with my schedule and playing sports.”

Asked how students new to public transportation can better transition, A’Shaune recommends “try to find a friend that rides the same route as you, and if you don’t feel comfortable, sit close to the bus driver.”