School transport: route design

Routes are designed by the Ministry of Education. Transport service providers decide where the safest stops are along the route.

Level of compliance Main audience Other


  • Boards
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Bus controllers
  • Parents, Caregivers and Whānau

Contact your school’s transportation service provider for specific route and bus stop information.


Bus routes are designed by the Ministry of Education based on these key design principles: 

  • Bus routes are designed to transport as many eligible students as efficiently as possible. 
  • A minimum of eight eligible students is required for a bus route to be considered.
  • Buses generally travel as far as the fourth furthest eligible student on any given road

Route design takes into consideration:

  • location of eligible students
  • location of bus stops
  • safety
  • timetables
  • Ministry cost limits.

Transport service providers decide where the safest bus stops are along the route. Routes usually run down main roads and students are expected to make their own way to a central bus stop.

The route is finalised after discussion between the Regional Transport Advisor, the transport service provider, and the local school/s.

Changes to routes

Moved, shortened, or stopped

A route may be moved or shortened if the location of eligible students changes. A route may be stopped if the Ministry establishes that the service isn't viable anymore. For example, there might not be enough eligible students using the bus.

If a route is changed, a Conveyance Allowance may be paid to caregivers of eligible students.

If a school bus service is shortened or stopped, a school term’s notice is normally given to the affected schools.

Schools are responsible for notifying their student’s caregivers of the upcoming change to their school bus service.


Schools may want to request that a bus route is extended to serve more eligible students.

Ministry services usually travel along main roads – extensions may be approved along main or side roads if:

  • there are four or more eligible students living on or around the proposed extension
  • the distance to the home of the furthest eligible student is at least 2.4 kilometres from the road the bus currently travels along
  • the road the extension is to travel on is suitable, including the ability for the bus to turn around

Please note:

  • the school bus may travel only as far the student who lives the fourth furthest from the school bus route.
  • The exact point that the bus will travel to will also depend on where the nearest safe bus stop is located.
  • Students may need to travel to meet the vehicle at this central point.

Schools should contact their local Regional Transport Advisor to discuss a request to change bus routes.


Schools can contact their transport service provider for the timetable of their school bus services.

General timetable rules are:

  • students aren't picked up before 7am
  • students should be set down by 5pm
  • ideally, students shouldn't be on the vehicle longer than 60 minutes.

Please note:

  • There may be exceptions due to local circumstances, such as route length, school starting times, and the number of schools on the route.
  • Students may be required to wait on school grounds for their school bus before or after school.

Bus stops

Your transport service provider is responsible for determining the pick-up and drop-off bus stops along the route. They are also responsible for ensuring that these locations are fit for purpose. Please contact your transport service provider in the first instance if you have a query or concern about a bus stop.

More information

For more information about how school bus routes are designed, either check out our factsheet

Designing school bus routes [PDF, 317 KB]

Or contact your local Regional Transport Advisor.

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