Does providing students in the Providence Public School District with greater access to public transportation improve attendance?
Overview: Under an agreement between the Providence Public School District (PPSD) and the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA), students who live more than one mile from their school are eligible to receive city bus passes. Going forward, the district needs to decide whether to shift the eligibility radius and whether to take on the cost of these bus passes. The Annenberg Institute is working with data on attendance and other student outcomes to measure the effects of the policy and to provide a cost-benefit analysis for the district.
Background: During the 20-21 SY, PPSD changed the eligibility requirements for receiving a RIPTA bus pass for high school students. In prior years, students had to live farther than 2 miles away from their school to receive a free RIPTA bus pass; last year the radius dropped to just 1 mile. The cost of keeping the radius at 1 mile as opposed to 2 miles is estimated to be $1 million annually. Annenberg is working with PPSD to better understand the effect of this policy to inform the investment decision.
Methods: Using a regression discontinuity design, we compared the outcomes of students on either side of the cutoff. That is, we looked at attendance outcomes for students who live just less than 1 mile away from school and students who live just over 1 mile away from school.
Our preliminary results do not show a significant relationship between RIPTA pass eligibility and student attendance. Because we do not have data on actual use of the bus passes, we cannot infer whether there is a relationship between transportation usage and attendance. We are currently working to understand differences of impact between student demographic groups, and to understand how this could change the trajectory of the RIPTA bus pass program.