The average high schooler’s commute in 2011-12 was 32 minutes, according to some new number-crunching from the Independent Budget Office. But more than one in five students faced commutes longer than 45 minutes each way.
Unsurprisingly, the Census tracts with the highest share of 45-minute-plus treks for students are in parts of Queens, the Bronx, and central Brooklyn, where train lines end or where transportation options are scarce. (The city offers hardship transfers for students who end up with a commute of at least 90 minutes, though students are encouraged to factor commuting time into their initial high school choice process, which allows students to indicate preference for schools across the city.)
Some students request, and are happy with, schools very far from home. Long commutes are now commonplace among Bronx Science, for example. But for struggling students, principals have long raised the alarm that long commutes can encourage absences.
Back in 2010, Christine Rowland wrote that she saw a correlation between longer commutes and higher absence rates among high-needs students at Christopher Columbus High School:
I do not doubt that a great many students across the city travel long distances to attend a school they feel are the best fit for their needs. But students don’t always take on long commutes out of choice. Suspecting that lengthy commutes actually hurt many of our most vulnerable students, I undertook a study into attendance statistics that suggests that it might be better for some students to have a shorter trip to school.