Updated: Another example that school bus-based transportation is increasingly unsustainable
A query about the number used below, of "an average of $500 per student for annual bus transportation," which was a quote from the Indianapolis Star article, led me to make a more detailed inquiry.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the national average cost for bus transportation for one student in one year is $871, with data from 2009-2010, which is the most recent year available.
One of the problems with moving away from a neighborhood-based elementary school planning and development paradigm is that school systems become dependent on buses for transporting students to school.
This is problematic for many reasons, including health and wellness--which has triggered the "Safe Routes to School" initiative.
But it's also problematic financially, especially as local government budgets become increasingly hard pressed, as communities reach the ceiling of what they can charge for property and other taxes. According to various studies, it typically costs at least $500 per year to bus one student to and from school.
During the recession, more school districts began enforcing regulations concerning access to bus transportation--with some exceptions, most districts won't provide bus service for students living within one mile of a school--and increasing the distance from school before bus transportation would be provided.
Some school districts have imposed transportation fees, which some residents have opposed as illegal. There is a case pending before the Indiana Supreme Court ("Fair fees? Facing cuts, more schools charge for busing," USA Today) on this issue. Also see the Indianapolis Star piece, "Indiana Supreme Court to hear case on school bus fees."
Missed in the discussion is how school systems developed on the sprawl land use paradigm end up being financially crushed by the financial implication--dependent on school buses, diesel gasoline, and drivers.
Buses need to be replaced at the end of their useful life, energy costs continually increase (with a current respite), and it becomes increasingly difficult for school systems to recruit and retain enough bus drivers, given the split shifts and difficulties inherent in the work.