Students throughout New York City rely on a fleet of thousands of school buses to arrive safely at school in the morning, and at home each evening.

But when school buses are delayed, break down, or become stuck in traffic, a host of logistical and safety concerns result.

Students miss important class time, and may be delayed for extensive periods while the source of the delay is resolved.




Daily School Bus Delays

In September 2018, school buses that were delayed ran an average of more than 28 minutes late – some were delayed considerably longer.

While this number is a slight decrease from June 2018, it is significantly longer than last September, when the average delay was under 25 minutes.

Students experienced 27,082 school bus related delays in September 2018.

Note: Information provided by the Department of Education (DOE) as self-reported by bus companies. More details on data analysis: Technical Details

Download the Data

Sept 2018 Delays

623 Delays Daily

27 Minute Delays

Average Daily Delays Per Month
Sept 2015 – Sept 2018

Delay Times

In September 2018, on average, when school buses were delayed, they were delayed for 28.1 minutes.

That means that though students experience delays for longer or shorter periods of time, a student can expect to be delayed an average of 28.1 minutes every time there is a school bus delay.

This is a decrease from June 2018, where the average delay was 28.3 minutes but an increase from September of the previous year. In September 2017, the average delay time was 24.8 minutes.

Average Delay Time (minutes) Per Month
Sept 2015 – Sept 2018


School Bus Delay Reasons

According to school bus operators, heavy traffic is the most common reason for delays, and has accounted for 60% of delays in the past 3 years. On average, traffic delays cause students to arrive 23 minutes later than expected.

While accidents are, fortunately, relatively rare, they cause the longest delays. Between September 2015 and September 2018, they resulted in an average of 39 minutes.

Reasons for Delays

Traffic: 60% of Delays

Accidents: 39 Minute Delays

Most Frequent Delay Reasons

Reasons for delays include:

  • Heavy Traffic (60%)
  • Other (14%)
  • Mechanical Problem (10%)
  • Won’t Start (5%)
  • Flat Tire (3%)
  • Weather Conditions (3%)
  • Late Return from Field Trip (2%)
  • Problematic Route (1%)
  • Accident (1%)
  • Delayed by School (1%)
Reason for School Bus Delays
Sept 2015-Sept 2018

How Long Certain Delays Take
Average Length of Delay Per Reason
Sept 2015 – Sept 2018

Students are delayed for different amounts of time because of a variety of reported delay reasons.

Reported accidents, though infrequent, create the longest reported delays. Between September 2015 and September 2018, accidents created on average, reported delays of 39 minutes a day.

The most frequent reason for delays, heavy traffic, caused average delays of 23 minutes a day over the past 3 years.

Reasons for Delays Over Time

Bus Breakdown / Preventable Delays
Sept 2015 – Sept 2018

The number of delays caused by traffic each day (represented by the data points) varies seasonally. The central line reflects the average rise of delays over time, neglecting seasonal shifts.

The data suggests delays caused by heavy traffic peak at the beginning of the school year. Every September, there is a spike in delays, which increase every year.

The graph above focuses on bus delays due to breakdowns, which include mechanical problems, flat tires and won’t start.

These preventable delays have steadily increased between September 2015 and September 2018.



Traffic Delays
Sept 2015 – Sept 2018


Where School Buses Are Delayed

Students face different delay times depending on the school’s location.

When delays occurred, those in Queens faced an average of 29 minutes over the past three years.

Students in Staten Island were only delayed an average of 18 minutes over the same period.

Borough Delays

Queens: 29 Minutes a Day


Delay Times by Borough

Average Minutes of Delay Per Borough
Sept 2015 – Sept 2018

Average Minutes of Delay Per Borough

  • Queens: 29.3 mins
  • Brooklyn: 29.1 mins
  • Manhattan: 26.9 mins
  • Bronx: 20.7 mins
  • Staten Island: 18.2 mins


School Bus Delay Times Per School

Average, Sept 2015 – Sept 2018



When School Buses Are Delayed

At least 71% of reported delays occur in the morning, as students are being brought to school. While special education buses account for the bulk of delays, they also account for the majority of daily school bus routes.

The “Other” category constitutes:

  • General Ed Field Trip
  • Project Read AM Run
  • Project Read Field Trip
  • Project Read PM Run
  • Special Ed Field Trip
When Are School Buses Delayed
Sept 2015 – Sept 2018

Technical Details

Data used is sourced from the Open Data Portal “Bus Breakdown and Delays” dataset.

The data is self-reported by bus companies, bus drivers, and NYC OPT (Office for Pupil Transportation).

The data was cleaned by the removal of rows with missing or unphysical data points.

All fits shown are regression fits, performed under the assumption of negligible seasonality in the underlying data as suggested by a poor auto-correlation.

School days are approximated as days in which there are over 250 school bus delays, successfully eliminating days with delays not due to usual school day activity, a negligible fraction of true school days.

Delay times are approximated from the ‘How_Long_Delayed’ string data column with the minimum possible value of ranges used for most cases.

The data analysis can be found at this github page.