Bus transportation has long been an issue in Boston, when buses were at a 65% rate of being ontime to schools.
With that in mind, Boston Public Schools Superintendent Carol Johnson today outlined changes to the BPS transportation department she said "will ensure on-time performance and improved communication with families for the beginning of the next school year."
BPS is making several changes to improve customer service, too, including allowing parents to identify alternate afternoon drop off locations in advance so most stops can be routed before the school year begins, rather than several weeks after the school year begins.
(What changes would you like to see to the Boston Public Schools Transportation Department? Please leave comments below the article.)
Johnson said BPS has already begun routing fall transportation routes, which is months ahead when the routes are usually started. Johnson said BPS has made changes to the way routes are planned, while reviewing how students get picked up and dropped off.
“We don’t want to ever again experience the transportation troubles we had this school year,” said Johnson, from a press release. “We moved from a 65 percent on-time figure this fall to one that is consistently above 90 percent today, and to do so we took an in-depth look at how our system operates. We directed our transportation department to make significant changes that will enable us to serve our families better than ever before. We have made staffing changes and have already started planning for the fall to ensure smooth operation in the upcoming school year.”
Many people pointed fingers at First Student, the company operating BPS' fleet of buses. The contract between BPS and First Student expires in June 2013, according to Johnson. This summer BPS will release a Request For Proposals (RFP) for companies to submit plans on how it would operate the fleet under a new contract. Along with daily transportation to BPS students, BPS provides daily bus transportation for charter, private and parochial school students in the city of Boston.
Johnson highlighted the March appointment of Carl Allen as the Interim Director of Transportation. Under Allen's guidance, Johnson said school buses have increased being on time. Allen and Assistant Chief Operating Officer Kim Rice were praised for the BPS transportation team keeping arrival times above 90% for the 14th straight week.
This winter BPS launched a computerized call tracking system to allow staff to better track and respond to calls from parents about bus transportation issues. The system is run through the Mayor’s 24-hour hotline at 617-635-4500.
Part of improving the process was providing customer service training to transportation staff to better assist families who call with issues.
Johnson said BPS staff will now operate under a new set of procedures, including:
- Begin planning routes in the spring, months earlier than usual.
- Reviewing routes to ensure drivers have enough time to navigate between stops and giving drivers more opportunities to test routes in real-world conditions.
- Reviewing load and unload procedures to ensure that drivers have plenty of time to safely unload buses.
- Allowing parents to identify alternate afternoon drop off locations in advance so most stops can be routed before the school year begins, rather than several weeks after the school year begins.
- BPS will engage drivers and other stakeholders, such as school principals, to identify potential route problems early.
Johnson also declared June as the first BPS driver appreciation month. Students and parents are being asked to share notes of appreciation with their bus drivers and will host special events to celebrate more than 700 bus drivers who care for students every day.
What do you think of the proposed changes to the BPS Transportation Department? Please leave a comment below.