Updating Qatar's School Transportation System

Research Brief

Key findings:

  • In light of challenges associated with continued growth and demographic change, Qatar wants to update its school transportation system.
  • RAND-Qatar Policy Institute (RQPI) researchers formulated a vision for Qatar's school transportation system and specific goals to realize the vision.
  • Researchers identified 20 strategies to achieve the goals and realize the vision.
  • RQPI recommends 13 strategies that will help bring Qatar's school transportation system in line with international norms.

In light of the many challenges associated with Qatar's continued growth and demographic changes, the government of Qatar wants to update its school transportation system (STS). Stakeholders, including school administrators and the Supreme Education Council, have voiced a variety of concerns about the current state of school transportation, ranging from safety and traffic congestion to efficiency and service quality. The government of Qatar asked the RAND-Qatar Policy Institute (RQPI) to assess stakeholder perspectives on school transportation, help identify a vision and goals for the STS, identify international norms for school transportation, and highlight strategies for Qatar to achieve better alignment with international norms.

Developing a Vision and Goals

To develop the vision, RQPI researchers reviewed key planning documents for Qatar,[1] interviewed school administrators at several schools, and surveyed parents at those schools to identify the characteristics that the STS should embody. Armed with this information, researchers drafted a vision comprising the following four elements:

  • Provide safe, efficient, and high-quality transportation for Qatar's students.
  • Support educational options by enabling mobility and access.
  • Provide a transportation experience that supports Qatari values and culture.
  • Minimize the impact on traffic congestion and the environment.

The researchers next identified the goals necessary to realize the four elements of the vision. For example, to achieve the safety portion of the first vision element, they identified "Effective safety standards and measures are established and enforced" as a goal. To minimize the effect on traffic congestion, they identified "Transportation operations minimize delays and traffic around schools" as a goal. Having defined the vision and goals, the researchers then turned to developing strategies that would achieve the goals and thereby realize the vision.

Strategies to Achieve the Goals and Vision

Researchers identified a number of strategies for achieving the proposed vision. Many of the strategies would bring Qatar's school transportation system into closer alignment with international norms. The researchers also identified a few strategies that, while not commonly practiced, may interest Qatar because of stated preferences of administrators and parents. The strategies fall into five major categories:

  • school zone management
  • bus design and operation
  • fleet operations and management
  • information, communication, and analysis
  • student management.

The table lists the strategies identified within the five categories and the elements of the vision that each strategy supports. Many of these strategies carry little risk and can be implemented with modest investments. The researchers specifically recommend strategies for which (1) implementation obstacles appear to be modest and (2) anticipated costs appear to be modest. For example, the development of a school transportation policy manual, standardized student loading procedures, and bus driver training can yield significant benefits without large investments. Some potential strategies emerged that may offer benefits but also raise important issues related to cultural concerns, uncertain cost-effectiveness, or inconsistency with international norms. Those strategies are not currently recommended but may warrant future consideration.

Candidate Strategies for Updating Qatar's School Transportation System
Strategy Supported Vision Elements

School Zone Management

Establish clearly marked school zones

Use traffic laws, education, and enforcement to improve safety


Safety, Traffic

Safety, Traffic

Bus Design and Operation

Institute school bus standards

Establish bus driver standards, training, and evaluation

Standardize driver checklists and reporting

Integrate Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags into buses

Establish maintenance standards and monitoring


Safety, Quality

Safety, Quality, Values

Safety, Quality, Efficiency

Safety, Efficiency

Safety, Quality

Fleet Operations and Management

Optimize bus routes

Institute pick-up/drop-off points

Stagger school start times

Alter fleet size and composition




Efficiency, Traffic


Information, Communication, and Analysis

Create a policy manual

Conduct an awareness campaign

Elicit stakeholder feedback

Gather and assess safety data

Establish and monitor efficiency metrics


Safety, Quality, Efficiency

Safety, Access

Safety, Quality, Efficiency, Values


Efficiency, Quality

Student Management

Enhance bus monitor requirements

Establish student loading and unloading procedures

Manage student behavior

Provide access to media on buses


Values, Quality


Values, Quality



Qatar's STS does not conform to international norms in a number of areas. To better align Qatar's STS with common international practices, researchers recommend that Qatar consider pursuing the 13 strategies explained in further detail below. The recommended strategies carry little implementation risk, and most can be implemented with modest investments:

  • Establish clearly marked school zones with standardized safety and traffic management features around schools.
  • Use traffic laws, education, and enforcement to control the behavior of private drivers near schools and school buses.
  • Adopt international standards for school buses.
  • Establish universal standards for licensing and training bus drivers.
  • Make drivers responsible for completing daily standardized checklists and reports to ensure adherence to standardized processes.
  • Establish maintenance standards and a process for monitoring compliance.
  • Publish a systemwide policy manual.
  • Conduct awareness campaigns to reinforce practices, policies, and laws.
  • Provide school administrators and parents a mechanism for giving transportation officials feedback about issues with school transportation.
  • Maintain and track safety data to properly evaluate safety and formulate targeted responses to safety problems.
  • Establish performance metrics and develop a system to gather data to measure systemwide performance.
  • Ensure that trained school staff are available to supervise bus loading and unloading during peak hours.
  • Enforce greater discipline on buses. square

[1] These included the Qatar National Vision 2030, the Qatar National Master Plan, and the Transportation Master Plan.

Blue arrowRead the Full Report

This research brief describes work done by the RAND-Qatar Policy Institute and documented in Qatar's School Transportation System: Supporting Safety, Efficiency, and Service Quality, by Keith Henry, Obaid Younossi, Maryah Al-Dafa, Shelly Culbertson, Michael G. Mattock, Thomas Light, and Charlene Rohr, MG-1136-QATAR, 2012, 154 pp., ISBN: 978-0-8330-6024-2 (Full Document).

This research brief was written by Jerry Sollinger.

This product is part of the RAND Corporation research brief series. RAND research briefs present policy-oriented summaries of individual published, peer-reviewed documents or of a body of published work.

The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit research organization providing objective analysis and effective solutions that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.

RB-9642-QATAR (2012)

Copyright © 2012 RAND Corporation