School choice reforms aim to provide families with expanded opportunities and influence in public education. However, policies that formally offer school choice can be constrained by conditions that limit families’ choices in practice. One of those conditions is geography. Students cannot opt into schools if they cannot reasonably get to them in the morning or get back home in the afternoon. Unsafe, unaffordable, or burdensome commutes can prevent schools from being truly available to families. This makes transportation a vital characteristic of school choice in practice.
In this study, we examine how students travel to school in the nation’s most market-driven school system. We examine actual school bus routes in New Orleans, where students are not assigned to a school based on their home address, and over 90 percent of public school students attend a charter school.