About . . .
The Great Valley Center
The Great Valley Center is a non-profit organization that supports activities and organizations that promote the economic, social, and environmental well being of California’s Great Central Valley.

The Central Valley
The Sacramento Valley and the San Joaquin Valley together form the Central Valley, California’s interior region. The Central Valley includes nineteen counties and several major cities, such as Redding, Sacramento, Stockton, Modesto, Fresno, Visalia, and Bakers-

The Stewardship Council
The Stewardship Council is a non-profit organization that oversees the conservation of 140,000 acres of watershed lands that are owned by PG&E. Stewardship Council lands are used, among other things, to provide places for underserved youth to experience the outdoors. Through the Youth Investment Program the Stewardship Council has allocated over $2 million in grants to 32 organizations that provide kids exposure to nature and the outdoors. This program will provide $30 million in funding over ten years to programs that provide outdoor opportunities for underserved youth or enhance parks and recreation areas (Cohen, 2007).

field. By 2050, state demographers project the population of the Valley will double in size to more than 12 million people. As the Valley continues to grow and urbanize it is important that outdoor youth programs in the Valley also grow, and that all communities in the Valley have access to nature. Fifty years ago, living in Fresno, Modesto, or Merced almost always meant living in nature (perhaps on a ranch somewhere), but this is no longer the case.


Numerous organizations throughout California are working to connect young people to the great outdoors. This study will document how the transportation logistics of outdoor programs can be one of the biggest barriers when it comes to connecting youth to the outdoors. In order to assist these organizations, the Great Valley Center, the Stewardship Council and PG&E commissioned this report
Photo Credit: BrianTalbot

to define the current transportation challenges confronted by outdoor youth programs and organizations, and explore and compare the current available transportation opportunities.

Through a series of interviews and surveys, this study found that no matter which transportation mode is used, teachers and youth organizations
Photo Credit: Alex Grant

face three principle transportation challenges: cost, administration, and availability. The paper discusses transportation opportunities that, to some extent, overcome these challenges, have proven successful elsewhere, and which may be implemented in Central Valley communities. Some of the opportunities can be done by one organization, but most require coordination between organizations and other entities, such as local governments and school districts.


5 6 7
Introduction Organizations that Connect Youth to the Outdoors Current Transportation Practices and Challenges
Charter Bus page 7 Yellow School Buses page 9 Rental Vans page 10 Company Vans page 11 Car Pool page 14 Public Transit page 14 Summary Chart page 15


Transportation Opportunities
Van Pool Collaboratives page 16 Yellow School Bus Agreements page 17 Charter Bus Programs page 18 Transit Agreements page 19 Bicycles page 20


Summary of Challenges and Opportunities page 22 Collaboration Between Entities: A Key Ingredient page 22 Thorough Needs Assessment page 23 Bringing Nature to Us vs. Us Going to Nature page 23 Challenges and Opportunities Specific to the Central Valley page 24 Conclusion page 26

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References Appendices
A: Best Practices Summery Chart B: Additional Resources

As a modern urban society it is important that we connect young people to the outdoors. Growing up in increasingly urbanized settings, young people have little opportunity to explore and appreciate California’s natural environments. A recent poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found that “30 percent of teenagers did not participate in any outdoor nature activity at all this past summer. Another 17 percent engaged only once in an outdoor activity like camping, hiking or backpacking.” Not surprisingly, there is a lot involved in trying to move any large group of people long distances. No matter what transportation mode is used – a charter bus, school bus, rental van or company van – there are three principal In his book, Last Child in the Woods, Richard Louv (2008) links “nature-deficit disorder” to some of today’s most disturbing childhood trends, such as the rises in obesity, attention disorders, and depression. Others point to environmental education and stewardship as an important reason to connect youth to the outdoors. As one community leader who was interviewed for this study said, “How can we expect our children to protect the environment if they don’t even know what it is?” In order to assist teachers and youth organizations that connect young people to the outdoors, the Great Valley Center, the Stewardship Council and PG&E commisThere are numerous youth-serving organizations and educators working to bridge this gap. This report is concerned with the transportation logistics of connecting young people to the great outdoors. As the President of Project Great Outdoors, Kurt Hoge remarked, and as many others agree, “the greatest barrier to getting young people outdoors turns out, in our experience, to be JUST GETTING THEM THERE.” sioned this report. challenges in transporting youth: cost, administration, and availability. For some organizations, the inability to provide transportation can prevent a trip from even happening. Hoge explained that “by June, I expect to have a number (3-10 from past experience) of cases where unavailability of transportation kept an outdoor experience from happening.”

This report:
1) Defines the current transportation challenges of outdoor youth programs, 2) and explores and compares transportation opportunities.

Organizations that Connect Youth to the Outdoors
There are numerous youth-serving organizations in California whose objectives include connecting young people to the outdoors.
The following is just to name a few: • • • • • • • • • • Aim High Headlands Center for Land Based Learning Coloma Outdoor Discovery School Daughters of Tradition Environmental Traveling Companions Project Great Outdoors Sierra Club Building Bridges to the Outdoors WildLink Wood Leaf Outdoor School YMCA
Photo Credit: John Hayes

• Yolo Basin Foundation Popular destinations include Yosemite National Park, the Sierra Nevada Wilderness Areas, the San Francisco Bay, Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park, Merced Wildlife Refuge, Santa Cruz Mountains and the Stewardship Council Watershed Lands. Although all these organizations connect youth to the outdoors, their missions vary. Some organizations have an environmental education and stewardship purpose, others have a personal development concentration, and others just focus on having fun. Some of these organizations particularly serve low-income, at-risk, or disabled youth. Transportation needs vary among organizations and schools that are responsible for transporting youth. Some organizations need to move several hundred kids, some only two or ten. Some organizations have In terms of transportation, there are two kinds of youth-serving organizations: 1) those that are responsible for both transportation to the outdoor program and directing the program, and 2) those that are only three field trips each week, others twice a month or once a year. Transportation needs can also vary within a single organization, depending on the type of trips they take and the time of year they take them. responsible for directing the outdoor program, leaving participating organizations and schools with the responsibility of transportation. For example, the WildLink program, based in Yosemite, hosts 100 students each year. The responsibility of getting those students to outdoor program locations is placed on the participating schools, including Turlock Middle School, Merced High School, Kingsburg High School, Delta Vista High School, and Madera High School.


Current Transportation Practices & Challenges
There are only so many ways to transport youth to the outdoors: charter buses, school buses, rented vans or company vans, car pool arrangements or public transit services. The transportation mode that teachers and youth organizations utilize depends on their particular transportation needs, the resources they have, and the transportation services available to them.

Charter Bus

Among the fourteen organizations that were studied for this report, charter bus rentals were the most prevalent mode of transporting youth to the outdoors; renting vans came in second. Two organizations owned a vehicle, and two organizations were seriously considering buying their own vehicles. Car pooling and the use of public transit were the least commonly used modes.

Charter buses are the most prevalent mode of transporting youth to the outdoors. Although the buses are expensive to charter, they are a flexible and reliable mode of transportation. Depending on the size of the bus, they can carry 24-50 passengers. For many organizations, contracting charter buses makes more sense than having to deal with the financial and administrative burdens associated with owning and operating a van, including the cost of insurance and

No matter which transportation mode is utilized, teachers and youth organizations face three principle challenges: cost, administration, and availability of vehicles and drivers. There is the cost of the transportation itself (i.e. the vehicle, the insurance, the driver, the gas, etc.), as well as the administrative duties associated with arranging transportation.

finding a qualified driver.

The biggest barrier to chartering a bus is the cost. Charter bus costs range from $350 - $1,000 dollars per day. Costs are figured based on hours, destination, and time of year. In some cases a charter bus


Charter Buses
can cost up to three times the amount of participating in the outdoor activity itself. For example, Project Great Outdoors offers rafting trips to other youth organizations at a rate of $250 per trip. Based on a quote from a Bay-Area charter bus company, the cost of renting a charter bus to and from the river would be $900.

The following is a partial list of charter bus companies that operate in the Central Valley: • • • • Coach USA Golden Charm A Plus Tours /Delta Charter Bus First Student (school bus charters) year when they are simply unavailable. “We’ve got the money, we’ve got the trip paid for, and yet we can’t find one single bus in all of Sacramento” stated Mary Kimbell, Executive Director of Center for LandBased Learning. John Martin, Chief Financial Officer of A Plus Charter Company, explained that during certain times of the year (e.g. graduation season or baseball season), bus reservations are made as far as a year or more in advance.

The only administrative actions required for using charter buses are reserving the bus and paying for it. In some cases charter bus reservations may only need to be made one week in advance of the scheduled trip, however sometimes reservations are required months in advance.

In some situations, lack of charter bus availability is not so much about the availability of buses from a particular company, but because there is a lack of charter bus companies themselves. Sara Scheffler, Executive Director of the YMCA based out of Modesto, explained that there is a “lack of [charter bus] companies that can transport the number of kids we need to transport”.

Although charter buses are a relatively available mode of transportation, outdoor program directors reported that there are certain times throughout the


Yellow School Buses
School buses can only be used in the middle of the day when they are not being used for their primary purpose of transporting children to and from school. Lisa Curnett, Outdoor Education Director of YMCA’s Camp Cambell Outdoor Science School based in the Santa Cruz Mountains, reported that due to constrained school bus availability, students are frequently forced to miss the final hour of the program.

Yellow School Buses
Teachers and youth-serving organizations, in some cases, use yellow school buses to connect young people to the outdoors. Many school districts that own buses offer relatively low-cost transportation to teachers for class fieldtrips (Alameda County, May 2000). Youth organizations that have made special agreements with certain school districts can rent school buses as well. Renting a school bus is generally less expensive than renting a charter bus, but there are limits on when they can be used and where they can go. Depending on the size, school buses can carry 20-84 passengers.

School buses can be more or less available during certain times of the year. For example, Aim High is a low income youth-serving organization that facilitates youth participation in habitat restoration in the Tennessee Valley of the Marin Headlands. During the summer, as part of its Headlands Environmental Home Program, they rent school buses from San Francisco School District. However, Richard Lautze, the Director of the program, explains that “it is almost impossible to get school buses at the time that I want them during the school year.”

The cost of renting a school bus can range from $150$250 dollars a day, according to the Bolinas-Stinson Unified School District (May 2008).

The major challenge with using school buses is availability.
Photo Credit: Judy Baxter


Rental Vans
reserving a school bus generally requires considerable lead time. In some cases, teachers that use school buses for field trips must reserve the bus as early as the start of the school year. The specific way to schedule the use of a school bus depends on school district policy.

Rental Vans
Many youth organizations rent one or more vans from car rental companies such as Enterprise or Depending on school district policies, school buses may also have geographic limitations on where they can travel. For example, some districts do not allow school busses to go out of town. Furthermore, school buses themselves are not suited for travel up windy mountain roads. According to one company that operates school buses, they do not use school buses at elevations of over 4,000 feet. Hertz. Depending on the size, rental vans can carry 7-15 passengers.

The cost of renting a 7-passenger van may run about $99 per day (unlimited mileage) and a 15-passenger van costs about $129 per day (unlimited mileage). In addition, there is the cost for full coverage insurance: $30 for a 7-passenger van, and $34 for a 15-passen-

A few of the youth organization leaders that were interviewed for this report explained that due to the increasing cost in owning and operating school buses, more and more districts, especially in urban areas, are choosing not to own buses anymore and of the districts that still do have buses, the number of buses has decreased. Thus, their availability for field trips is increasingly constrained. School buses that are in operation are scheduled without breaks during the day and with little flexibility for road trips.

ger van. Discount rates may sometimes be negotiated when renting more than one vehicle at a time.

Then there is the cost of fuel. The fuel economy of a 2008 minivan can range from 16-25 miles per gallon (mpg). Based on $4.00 per gallon of gas and 20 mpg, the fuel costs to travel 40 miles is $8 and to travel 100 miles is $20.

Generally there is little administration associated with renting a van. It is just a matter of calling ahead of time in order to reserve the van, signing the papers

Due to the constrained availability of school buses,


Company Vans
and making sure there is a qualified driver who meets all the car rental company’s age and insurance requirements. State law requires that drivers of 10+ passenger vehicles possess a Class B Commercial Drivers License. The cost of insurance is a major challenge for orgafor a van and up to $5,000 for a bus. According to GEICO’s insurance policies, insuring a vehicle for the purpose of transporting children is more expensive than it is to transport adults.

Generally there are no availability issues with renting a van, as long as the vehicle is reserved in advance.

nizations that own vans and is a notable deterring factor that keeps other organizations from being able to own vans. According to Maria Schell Hassid, Program Director for Project Avery, “the cost of a van is

Company Vans
Although many youth-serving organizations find that that it is increasingly difficult to own and operate vehicles, some organizations do manage to have their own vans. Youth-serving organizations that own vans tend to have a larger clientele and/or take more regular trips throughout the year. Such organizations include the Boys and Girls Club and the YMCA. For some organizations, being able to invest in their own van can have many advantages, especially in terms of cost.

not so much the problem – but the cost of insurance is just inconceivable.”

Finally, the cost of fuel must also be factored in (see “Rental Vans” section above).

The cost of a new van ranges from: $18,000-$46,000 for a 2008 6-8 passenger van, or $26,135-$33,815 for a 2008 15-passenger van.

When Bret Falconer, Director of Mission Van Pool Collaborative, was asked about the challenges of owning three vans, he responded that after “funding”, it is “all the paper work!” Administrative duties associ-

The cost of a used 1995 diesel school bus is approximately $4,000.

For purposes of transporting youth, the annual cost of insuring those vehicles can range from $2,600

ated with owning and operating a vehicle include: purchasing and registering the vehicle, securing


Special Issues and Requirements
insurance, establishing a source of income to pay for operation costs, training and licensing of drivers, and dealing with safety and liability concerns. Safety and liability concerns can deter organizations from owning vans – especially 15-passenger vans. In addition, if “transportation incidental to operation of a youth camp is performed by either a qualifying nonprofit organization or an organization that operates an organized camp , the organizations shall participate in the DMV’s Employer Pull-Notice System and ensure compliance with the annual bus terminal

Special Administrative Issues Associated with 10+ Passenger Vehicles Registration Requirements
“Private Carriers”, including 10+ passenger vehicles used by any nonprofit organization must be registered with the California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) (California Public Utilities Commission, 2008).


Insurance Requirements
For Private Carriers, the required minimum protection against liability is $15,000 for bodily injury to or death of one person; $30,000 for bodily injury to or death of more than one person; and $5,000 for damage or destruction of property. Higher minimum requirements that vary based on vehicle seating capacity apply to organizations providing transportation services incidental to operation of a youth camp.

Steps to Registering with the PUC include: 1) Get a California Identification number issued by the California Highway Patrol. 2) Pay the $35 application fee. 3) Show a certificate of liability insurance. 3) Pay the $30 renewal fee every October for the following year.

For additional information, see General Order 160 ( PDF ).

It may be difficult to find a company to insure 10+ passenger vans. 15-passenger vans are a safety concern. Studies have documented 15-passenger crashes and have confirmed their rollover risks (Analysis of Crashes Involving 15-passenger Vans, 2004; Rollover Propensity of 15-Passenger Vans, 2001). As a result, some insurers choose not to insure these vans (“60 Minutes,” 2002). According to a GEICO representative, GEICO insures 15-passenger vehicles only in states that do not require a “filing” on those vehicles. In other words, GIECO does not insure “private


Special Issues and Requirements
carriers” that need to be registered with the California Public Utilities Commission (e.g. 10+ passenger vans for use by youth organizations). purpose of transporting passengers (as apposed to cargo) must go through an additional process to get an endorsement “P” on their CDL which allows them to do so. Other certifications may be required For organizations that have used 15-passenger vans, issues of safety and liability have forced them to adopt new ways of meeting their transportation needs. The Washington United Youth Center in San Jose has done overnight camping and rafting trips four times a year since 2002. “They used to have two 15-passenger vans, which made the trips possible. The vans were taken away because of liability concerns... without alternate transportation/ funding, the trips will no longer happen” (Hoge, 2008). School Pupil Activity Bus Certificate (SPAB)—required of any person who drives a bus for any school district or any other party
Photo Credit: Mary Thompson

as well, as described in the following Handbook excerpt:

School Bus Driver Certificate—required of any person who drives a bus for any school district or any other party carrying public or private pupils. A school bus driver must also have a school bus (S) endorsement on his/her CDL.

Drivers License Requirements
According to Section 1 of the California Commercial Drivers Handbook, the driver for “any vehicle designed, used, or maintained to carry more than 10 passengers including the driver, for hire or profit, or is used by any nonprofit organization or group” must posses a Commercial Drivers License (“California Commercial Driver Handbook,” 2008).

carrying public or private pupils for school related activities.

Youth Bus Certificate—required to operate any bus other than a school bus which carries not more than 16 children and the driver to or from a school, to an organized non-school related activity, or to and from home (after receiving additional CHP training).

In order to earn a California drivers license (CDL), vision, knowledge and performance tests must be passed. In addition, drivers who need a CDL for the

Many youth-serving organizations find it increasingly difficult to own and operate vehicles, especially 15-passenger vans. The YMCA of Stanislaus County


Car Pool and Public Transit

Photo Credit: Paul Kimo

based in Modesto, takes 450 kids to Yosemite for camping, making 10-15 trips each summer. Five years ago the YMCA owned four 15-passenger vans, now they only have one 7-passenger van. Sara Scheffler, Executive Director, explained that they got rid of vans and currently charter busses for most of their trips.

Program directors reported that car pooling is considered less of a viable option when dealing with particular populations (e.g. low-income populations, disabled populations, or populations whose parents are incarcerated) (Scehell-Hassid, 2008).

Public Transit
Some organizations do take public transit when it is possible. There is interest among teachers and youth organizations to take advantage of public transit when they can. Taking transit is inexpensive, however it is limiting in what destinations it serves and when it serves those destinations. Using transit can be challenging to use with a large group. For example, one youth organization leader reported that sometimes not all the students can fit together on one bus (Khamo, 2008).

Car Pool Arrangement
Some teachers and youth organizations use car pool arrangements for a range of fieldtrips. However some school districts and non profit organizations have policies that discourage car pooling or that will not allow it (Alameda County, May 2000). They would rather avoid the liability risks and voiced parental safety concerns.

Where car pooling is allowed, drivers are usually required to provide finger prints and proof of insur-



Summary Chart
Mode Charter Bus Advantages available, flexible, reliable available, flexible, reliable inexpensive Limitations • limited availability during peak seasons Cost • very expensive ranging from $300- $1000 a day. • 7 passenger: $99/ day plus $30 for full coverage insurance. •12-15 passenger vehicle: $129/ day plus $34 for full coverage insurance School Bus less expensive than charter bus can carry up to 82 kids • limited availability • availability changes with different times of the year • use depends on district policies • not able to travel up windy mountain roads • $26 p/hour for driver + miles (Merced high school) to up to $500 a day (Aim High middle school in SF) • $250 plus gas Company Van readily available for some, can be a good long term investment • must have class B Commercial Drivers License to drive 10+ passenger vehicle • liability issues (some insurance companies will not insure 15-passenger vans) • cost of insurance is very expensive • excessive processing, procedures/paperwork • cost of vehicle 2008 Ford 15-passenger van: $26,135 - $33, 815 2008 Toyota 7-passenger van: $25,025 - $32,970 •cost of insurance van: $2,600/year Bus: $5,000/year Car pool inexpensive • fingerprints and proof of insurance. • various policies that discourage or even prohibit • hard to organize • impossible for some disadvantaged populations where parents don’t own cars or are not around to participate • limited destinations $.50- $2.00 per person

Rental Van

• must have class B Commercial Drivers License to drive 10+ passenger vehicle


very inexpensive


Transportation Opportunities
The following transportation opportunities overcome, to some extent, the challenges of cost, administration, and availability (as described above).
The opportunities are arranged in no particular order, and should be considered in relation to the needs of particular youth-serving organizations. These opportunities may also be considered by local governments, school districts, umbrella non-profit organizations, and transit authorities with whom youth organizations might be able to partner. A van pool collaborative can greatly reduce an organizations transportation costs. Aaron Gilbert of St. John’s Community Center said secured the grant that paid for the vehicles and is primarily responsible for insuring and maintaining the vehicles. However the success of the van pool is very much based on keen collaboration between the member organizations.

1) Van Pool Collaboratives
A van pool collaborative is an arrangement in which one organization owns a van and shares it with a number of similar organizations. Such organizations need not have the same end goals so long as they have one thing in common: the need to move kids around.

“despite the challenges of sharing space and responsibility, overall the van pool is great.” Gilbert said that being a part of the van pool has saved them a lot of money that would otherwise be spent on renting vehicles, and has allowed them to grow their outdoor program.

The insurance and licensing issues that apply to comFor eight years the Mission Van Pool Collaborative has been successfully providing transportation for several youth organization in San Francisco’s Mission District. The Collaborative currently shares three vans between seven youth organizations. One of the organizations, the Jamestown Community Center, pany vans (mentioned above), apply to van pools as well. However, by having one organization take lead responsibility for the vans, many of the administrative burdens associated with owning and operating a vehicle are centralized.


School Bus Agreements
Van pools are all about sharing: sharing the costs, sharing the responsibilities, and of course, sharing the van. Although the availability of a shared-van is inherently limited, once the van schedule is established, participating organizations can meet their transportation needs through a reasonably regular and predictable schedule (e.g. youth organization A gets the vans Monday and Wednesday mornings, organization B gets the vans Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, and organization C gets the vans every third week-end, etc.). The Mission Van Pool even uses a free Yahoo Group website to manage scheduling. (See Appendix A). Yellow school bus agreements may reduce an organization’s transportation costs because the cost of renting a school bus is generally less expensive Even more interesting is the Bay Area Wilderness Training (BAWT) Program’s soon-to-be-launched van pool program where they will be incorporating two vans into the existing “City Car Share Program” – thereby transferring all administrative burdens associated with maintaining and scheduling the vans onto the car share professionals. The way it works is that teachers and youth organization leaders who have gone through the BAWT training have first priority in reserving the vans – otherwise the vans are available just like any other car-sharing vehicle. than a charter bus. For example, Project Avery rents school buses from the Bolinas-Stinson Unified School District for $250 dollars a day, which is cheaper than the average cost of a charter bus in that area (Alameda County, May 2000). A similar case exists between Aim High and Urban School. Richard Lautze, Program director for Aim High’s Headlands Environmental Home’s Program has been able to borrow a bus owned by Urban School- where he also works. Aim High uses the bus at no charge.

2) Yellow School Bus Agreements
In 2007 there were over 28,000 yellow school buses in California (Coffee, 2008), 17,000 of which are owned by school districts (Alameda County, May 2000). Partnerships between youth organizations and local school districts that allow youth organizations to rent buses from districts could help meet the transportation needs of outdoor programs. Despite the significant availability issues relating to school buses (described above), for some trips (i.e. short day trips or week-end trips) they make sense.


Charter Bus Programs
Successful administration of yellow school bus agreements requires working relationships between youth organizations and school districts. In both of the yellow school bus agreements studied for this report, the agreements were made based on existing relationships between the organization and the school district. For example, when a representative of a Bolinas-Stinson Unified School District was asked if they would consider allowing additional youth organizations to rent their school buses they responded that the district would do so “on a case by case basis” (Scutt, 2008). Charter bus programs are an efficient way for a local government or umbrella non-profits to provide Finally, a collateral benefit and advantage for a school district is that income from the agreements can help maintain a school districts bus fleet. a tangible benefit to a large number of groups. For example: The City of Trees has one million dollars to help transport youth to the outdoors. They could: 1) implement a grant program where 100 organizaIn the case of each of the charter bus programs above, the local government or nonprofit contracted with professional transportation service providers (e.g. charter bus companies). The transportation provided is free to organizations. learn about water quality issues. The Dreyer’s Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Bay Area, has a “Rocky Road Community Bus” that provides transportation for “youth-oriented groups”.

3) Charter Bus Programs
Local governments and umbrella nonprofits can create charter bus programs for the purpose of providing transportation for certain groups for certain trips. For example, the City of Los Angeles provides transportation for senior, youth, or disabled serving organizations for recreational, cultural, or educational activities. Similarly, in King County in Washington state, the “Water Wheels Bus” program provides transportation to youth groups that go on fieldtrips to

tions would receive $1,000 dollars for transportation, or 2) they could implement a charter bus program where they contract with a charter company that will provide the transportation. The benefit of second option is that there are less administrative transactions. With a grant program, each of the one hundred organizations have to apply for the grant, and would be required to submit reports verifying the proper use of funds, etc. Whereas with a charter bus program, the local government or umbrella non-profit makes a deal


Charter Bus Programs
with a private contractor and establishes a system to administer the process of reserving a bus. Charter bus programs deliver their services through a fairly simple process. come, first serve” is the general rule, however applications must be submitted at least 2 weeks in advance, and up to 6 weeks in advance during the peak summer periods.

The City of Los Angeles has had a charter bus program since 1974. The City has contracts with seven different transportation companies that provide the transportation and has two full time staffers working on the administration of the program. The program serves more than 3,000 organizations – each averaging 2-3 roundtrips per year (Fong, 2008). The City spends $3.7 million dollars a year on their charter bus program which is funded from local Propositions A and C.

Due to limited resources, the City of New York’s Charter Bus Program limits each participating organization to one trip per year, only allows day trips, and the trip cannot exceed a total of 200 miles. Trips more than two hours one way are prohibited. “Because of mileage and time limitations, trips cannot be scheduled to the following parks: Sesame Place, Hershey Park, Great Adventure, Wading River or Wildwood State Park” (Bus Transportation Program Guidelines, 2007).

In places where charter bus programs exist, the demand for “free” transportation is high. As a result, availability of a program bus is limited and reserving a bus may require significant lead time. In each of the charter bus programs studied for this report, “first

Despite limited availability, charter bus programs can be huge help to youth organizations. Outdoor program directors reported that even having just a few trips paid for every year would be a significant help.

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Public Transit
4) Public Transit
Like school districts, transit authorities own and operate large fleets of buses. Teachers and youth organizations leaders should take advantage of public transit whenever possible.

Teachers and youth organizations recognize the value in using public transit. The biology class of Oasis High School, located in Oakland, California, uses BART for a range of fieldtrips. For example, in September 2007, the class used transit to get to the Redwood Regional Park to hike and learn about the plants of the redwood forest ecosystem. larly, Fresno Area Express offers $14 dollar passes, good for groups up to 25 people from Fresno Unified School District. From July 2006 to July 2007 about 100 such fieldtrips trips were made (approximately 8 fieldtrips trips per month). Part of the reason why Oasis High School encourages the use of transit for fieldtrips is because they believe it is important to show youth how to ride transit. Martha Deipenbrock, Founder of Oasis High school, explains that the more kids ride transit now, the more likely it is they will use it in the future: “The trip itself becomes a valuable lesson” (Diepenbrock, 2008). Amtrak California has a “Kids N Trains” program. The program offers discounted group rates for teachers and youth groups for certain destinations, on trains during certain days. Participating routes are San Joaquin, Pacific Surfliner, and Capital Corridor. According to a 2003 press release, the program has served over 50,000 youth, and since the beginning of A few transit agencies, recognizing the benefits of drawing young people to transit, have created transit programs to encourage teachers and students to use existing transit services. For example, teachers and youth organizations in King County, Washington can ride the Metro for Taking this all a step further, in the Williamsburg Area in Virginia “middle and high school students can ride free on the Williamsburg Area the 2007-2008 season, the program has been extended to serve more destinations, more trains and on more days (www.amtrakcalifornia.com).


a 50% discount. Simi-

Transport buses with their student ID cards. Since the inception of the program in 2000, the number of student riders has increased from 1,975 to 4,772” (www.jccegov.com).

Many European cities have similar youth transit programs. In London, students under 18 can ride the bus and tram for free. Under their newest program, children under 11 can travel for free on the Tube and Docklands Light Railway (DLR) when accompanied by a paying adult (“Transport for London,” 2008). “The new program is part of the Mayor’s policy to improve young people’s access to education, sport and leisure facilities across the capital.” Children In California Assembly Districts 2002), bicycles are looking more and more like a reasonable transportation option. Bicycles are a cheap, reliable and healthy mode of transportation. Teachers and youth organizations should consider using bicycles Making it easier for youth to ride transit is a good idea for several reasons –increased access to natural areas is just one. You don’t always have to go as far as a national park or the mountains to experience nature; for some trips you may just need to go across town or to another part of your city – and that is why public transit can be useful. Unfortunately, few Central Valley towns and cities provide adequate public transportation options for their citizens. Recognizing the benefits of bicycle transportation, Oasis High School uses bicycles for a range of fieldtrips. For example, in April 2008, a class went on a bike ride to the Linden Street Gardens to participate in gardening and to learn about agricultural ecosystems and food sustainability. The bicycles are provided by Cycles of Change, a non-profit organization based in the East Bay that runs bicycle educafor transportation whenever possible.

5) Bicycles
At a time when the cost of gas is more than $4.00 a gallon, when our State has mandated a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, and when 26.5% of the state’s youth are overweight and 39.6% are unfit (An Epidemic: Overweight and Unfit

tion programs out of different schools. Oasis High School received a grant from Alameda County Public Health Dept to pay for the Cycles of Change coordinator, food for field trips, some BART expenses, bike maintenance costs, etc. The grant is for $10,000 dollar per year for 3 years.


Summary of Challenges and Opportunities
Indeed, “the greatest barrier to getting young people outdoors [is] . . . JUST GETTING THEM THERE” (Hoge, 2008). No matter what transportation mode is used, teachers and youth organization face three principle challenges: cost, administration, and availability of vehicles and drivers. There is the cost of the transportation itself (i.e. the vehicle, the insurance, the driver, the gas, etc) and there are the administrative duties associated with arranging transportation.
Photo Credit: Jeff Turner

Local governments and umbrella nonprofits may find it advantageous to create charter bus programs to provide transportation to certain organizations for

In order to overcome these challenges and meet the transportation needs of outdoor programs, youth organizations and other entities have a few opportunities to consider.

certain trips. Charter bus programs are an efficient way to deliver tangible benefits to youth organizations.

Teachers and youth organizations should take advanSome organizations might find it advantageous to create a van pool collaborative. By sharing the financial and administrative burdens associated with owning and operating vehicles, youth organizations can have access to a reliable source of transportation and reduce their transportation costs. tage of public transit whenever possible. Recognizing the benefits of drawing young people to use their services, transit agencies may find it advantageous to create programs to make it easier for teachers, students, and youth organization leaders to use transit.

Some organizations and school districts that own district buses may find it advantageous to create a yellow school bus agreement that allows certain youth organizations to use the district buses at certain times for a relatively low cost. Income from such a yellow school bus agreement could help maintain the district bus fleet.

Collaboration Between Entities: A Key Ingredient
The one thing that all of these transportation opportunities have in common is that their key ingredient for success is collaboration between organizations and other entities. ”We need to get people in the same room to start talking about these things,” said Mandy Vance, Program Director of Wildlink. Coor-


Key Findings
dination and sharing information and resources between nonprofits, school districts, local governments, and transportation authorities is key to solving the transportation problem. If passed, California Assembly Bill 2989 (2008), and U.S. House of Representatives Bill number 3036 cost increases from year to year are also significant (Kimbal, 2008).

Thorough Needs Assessment
In order to be sure that certain choices are an appropriate solution for particular organizations, certain factors need to be identified: • number of trips per year, • number of students per trip, • current transportation budget, and • cost analysis of alternative transportation options. The more these transportation needs are clearly identified and quantified, the easier it may be to secure funding. The reality is that transportation is necessary to connect youth to the outdoors, and unfortunately, it is increasingly expensive: vehicles are expensive, insurance is expensive, and adequately licensed drivers are expensive. Furthermore, outdoor program directors have noted that transportation

(2007) and Senate Bill 1981 (2007) would establish more funds for outdoor-based environmental education. While these efforts are underway, it is important that advocates of outdoor-based education acknowledge the true cost of connecting young people to the outdoors.

Bringing Nature to Us vs. Us Going to Nature
While the transportation logistics of outdoor programs need a serious amount of attention, it is important not to loose sight of the overarching goal. The problem is not that it is hard to transport youth to the outdoors. The major problem is that whole communities lack access to natural places. In order to solve this large-scale problem in the long run, outdoor experiences need to be integrated into our everyday lives.


Key Findings
Through certain land-use practices, cities and counties can shape the urban environment over time to ensure that all communities have access to nature. Cities and counties can improve pedestrian and bicycle connectivity to existing natural public spaces. In some cases, it may just be a matter of opening up a pedestrian entrance or extending a sidewalk or bicycle path.
Photo Credit: Lisa Duncan

Cities can also create natural areas. Recognizing the benefits of natural ecosystems within urban settings, the City of Stavanger, Norway re-surfaced an old water drainage system that is now a creek that runs through the city. Not only is it cheaper and healthier to run water above ground (as opposed to dirty pipes underground), running water above ground creates habitat for wildlife and provides the community access to natural ecosystems.

As a result, teachers and youth have less transportation options and services available to them.

With population destinations located far away from one another, walking and bicycling is an unreasonable transportation option. “Everything is very spread out! You pretty much have to use vehicles” explained Mary Kimball, Director of the Center for Land-Based Learning.

Challenges and Opportunities Specific to California’s Central Valley
Although teachers and youth organizations in the Central Valley face the same general challenges and opportunities as do others throughout the state, the differences in urban landscape and population growth projections bring particular transportation challenges and opportunities for those in the region.

Also, suburban, exurban and rural communities are less able to support public transit systems and other transportation services, such as charter buses and car-share programs.

Despite the challenges, communities in the Central Valley have a few advantages in connecting youth to the outdoors.

The Central Valley’s urban landscape is more spread out and less dense compared to other urbanized regions, such as Southern California or the Bay Area.

1) Much of the infrastructure that will be needed to support the projected population growth has yet to be built. This provides the region with the


Key Findings
opportunity to direct future development and redevelopment in ways that support bicycling, the creation of public transit systems, and access to nature. Once some of that basic infrastructure has been built, schools and other popular educational and recreational destinations should be developed near public transit, enabling more teachers and youth organizations to take advantage of its benefits.

2) The Central Valley is home to some of the world’s premium agricultural lands. By integrating small and large farms into the urban fabric, the Central Valley can provide all its communities with easy access to nature (not to mention good food). Urban farms present an opportunity for youth to get their hands dirty, but also to learn about and participate in one of the most important revolutions in the 21st century – sustainable food production.
Photo Credit: Matt Machado

together as they tackle regional Central Valley issues, such as population growth, goods-movement traffic, air pollution and sustainable agriculture. These existing working relationships can go a long way towards meeting the transportation needs of outdoor youth programs and assisting Central Valley communities so that they can have access to the nature that surrounds them in their home region and state. These

3) Collaboration between entities and organizations is key to successfully connecting youth to the outdoors. Fortunately, many Central Valley organizations and governmental entities have already begun to learn how to work

relationships should be further developed and strengthened, because they can help ensure that we foster the next generation of environmental stewards that will be connected and committed to protecting California’s natural environment.


To help meet the transportation needs of outdoor youth programs, youth organizations and other entities should consider van pool collaboratives, yellow bus agreements, charter bus programs, public transit, and bicycle programs. These transportation opportunities have proven successful elsewhere and may be implemented effectively in Central Valley communities. In the long run, outdoor experiences need to be integrated into our everyday lives. Through certain land-use practices, cities and counties can shape the urban environment so that an extra vehicle trip is not necessarily required to make a connection with nature. Instead, nature becomes something we can experience on our way to school, on our lunch break, or in our own neighborhoods. In order to determine which transportation option is best for a particular organization, a more detailed transportation needs assessment is required. Also, the better an organization or school can define their transportation needs, the easier it will be for outdoorbased program advocates to gain support and establish the necessary funds and resources to meet such needs. “We don’t all get to go to Yosemite, nor do we have to,” Louv said. “It can be the clump of trees at the end of the cul-de-sac or the ravine by the house. Those places may in terms of biodiversity not be that important, but to a child they can be a whole universe, where they can discover a sense of wonder. That is essential to our humanity, and we can’t deny that to future generations” (Fimrite, 2007).


Alameda County (May 2000). Field Trip Transportation Survey Report. Community Resources for Science. Bus Transportation Program Guidelines (2007). New York City Department of Youth and Community Development. California Center for Public Health Advocacy (2002). An Epidemic: Overweight and Unfit Children In California Assembly Districts. State of California Department of Motor Vehicles (2008). California Commercial Driver Handbook. California Public Utilities Commission (2008). Transportation FAQs: Passenger Carriers Questions and Answers Retrieved December 2, 2008, 2008, from http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/PUC/Transportation/faqs/psgFAQs.htm Coffee, J. (2008). Personal communication with Jaime Coffee, Information Officer, California Highway Patrol (CHP) Media Relations. Cohen, D. (2007, August 22). The Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council Announces Impact and Catalyst Fund Grant Award Winners. Stewardship Council Press Release. Diepenbrock, M. (2008). Interview with Martha Diepenbrock, Founder, Oasis High School. Fimrite, P. (2007, October 22). Children detach from natural world as they explore the virtual one. San Francisco Chronicle, from http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/10/22/ MN15SJ64U.DTL Fong, J. (2008). Interview with John Fong, Program Supervisor, City of Los Angeles. Gilbert, A. (2008). Interview with St. John’s Community Center Hoge, K. (2008). Project Great Outdoors and Transportation - letter to the Stewardship Council. Khamo, B. (2008). Interview with the Childcare Director, YMCA Santa Clara Kimbal, M. (2008). Interview with Mary Kimbal, Executive Director of Center for Land Based Learning. Louv, R. (2008). Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (2004). Analysis of Crashes Involving 15-passenger Vans. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (2001). Rollover Propensity of 15-Passenger Vans. Pelley, Scott. (2002, September 4) “Rollover” 60 Minutes: CBS News. Scehell-Hassid, M. (2008). Interview with the Program Director, Project Avary. Scutt, J. (2008). Personal Communication with Johanna Scutt, Administrative Assistant, speaking on behalf of Larry Enos, Superintendent of Bolinas-Stinson Unified School District. Transport for London (2008). from http://www.tfl.gov.uk/corporate/media/newscentre/4795.aspx


A Special Thanks To:
Alexander, Karen. Instructor Coordinator, CA Dept of Education. W Sacramento. Curnett, Lisa. Outdoor Education Director, YMCA Santa Clara Valley. Coffee, Jamie. Media Relations, California highway Patrol. De Leon, Lori. Executive Director. Daughters of Tradition. Bakersfield. Diepenbrock, Martha. Founder, Oasis High School. Oakland. Falconer, Bret. Director of Mission Van Pool, Jamestown Community Center. SF. San Francisco Fong, John. Bus Program Supervisor, City of Los Angeles. LA. Gilbert, Aaron. Outdoor Program Director. St Johns Community Center. SF. Hagler, Steve. Director of Youth Investment, Stewardship Council. San Mateo. Hoge, Kurt. President, Project Great Outdoors. Sacramento. Khamo, Bernadett. Childcare Director, YMCA. Kimball, Mary. Executive Director, Center for Land-Based Learning. Winters. LaBlanc, Martin. National Youth Education Director, Sierra Club Lautze, Richard. Aim High Headlands Environmental Home. San Francisco. John Martin, Chief Financial Officer of “A Plus Charter” company McDonald, Kyle. Executive Director, Bay Area Wilderness Training. McLaughlin, Laurie. Merced High School. Merced. Scutt, Johanna, Administrative Assistant and Larry Enos, Superintendent Bolinas-Stinson USD. Scheffler, Sara. YMCA Stanislaus County. Modesto. Schell-Hassid, Maria. Program Director, Project Avary. San Rafael. Vance,Many. Program Director, WildLink . Yosemite. Zollinger,Rona. Environmental Studies Academy Martinez USD. Martinez.


APPENDIX A: Best Practices Summary Spreadsheet


APPENDIX B: Additional Resources
• • • • • • • • • • • Center for Land Based Learning Sierra Club Building Bridges to the Outdoors WildLink http://wildlink.wilderness.net/ Aim High Headlands Environmental Traveling Companions Project Great Outdoors YMCA Coloma Outdoor Discovery School Daughters of Tradition Wood Leaf Outdoor School Yolo Basin Foundation

Bus Rates Website, www.busrates.com Fuel Economy Website, www.fueleconomy.gov Kelly Blue Book quote Pre Owned Bus Sales. First Student. (210) 481-3532 Pre Owned Bus Sales. First Student. (210) 481-3532 Insurance figures based on quotes from McGee Insurance Brokers March 2008, and GIECO May 2008. Interview with Maria Schell Hassid, Program Director, Project Avery Project Feb 2008. Interview with Bret, Falconer, Director of Mission Van Pool Collaborative, Jamestown Community Center April 2008. http://www.stnonline.com/stn/statesprovinces/unitedstates/2_ca.htm


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