Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Joint Committee meeting on transportation

You can find the transportation audit from School Bus Consultants here.
posting as we go...
Starting with a presentation from School Bus Consultants remotely. 

summary of assessment done back in wintertime, plus recommendations and why those recommendations
cost efficiency and service efficiency foremost
"things the department is doing right and doing well" pointed out in the report
mechanics of transportation important to consider
recommendation from a management perspective and a financial perspective
looking at cost; comparing cost & service compared to others; looking at routing scheme; scope and management of system; Durham contract & bid specifications
K to 6 system "what would that mean in terms of cost and service"
"there are implications certainly that are beyond just transportation"
"impact on school attendence and such, that go beyond transportation"

Good things:

  • 3 day turnaround time in special needs student assignments, particularly in light of small number of managers of transportation
  • well managed department
  • policies of routing are well structured (interrelationship between policies and procedures and what actually happens); "service expectations are being met" by actual transportation; policies make public what people can expect 
  • vendor contract with Durham well written and offers additional options for consideration; good starting points
  • in cost and service indicators, "we are looking at goalposts and not targets"..."caution...not able to capture consistent data in a consistent way" across the country; use of Great City Schools (which are larger than WPS) but do collect data
    "have to look value...and why...disaggregate costs...impact of special needs students on cost of overall transportation"
    "we don't see this as a problematic value for the system...porportional need of special needs students is driving costs in a particular way"
    "in for a dime, in for a dollar" with the contract structure that is used
    "bus is being used on average more than six times a day"
    "strucutre of your contract encourages that"
    "low number of seats being used"
    "how much do we use the bus, how much do we fill the bus"
    "25 minutes per a tremendous level of service"
    "balance that we're talking about striking relative to" length of ride versus how full the bus gets
    "talk a lot about the tier structure"
    analysis of bell times to to redistribute need for buses over morning and afternoon
    "those are primarily efficiency concerns...has to be taken into account with" program and other systems
    better than half the system of regular ed students has ride times of 20 minutes or less
    "represents an opportunity to say that if we made those rides incrementally longer" coudl you achieve cost savings
    shorter time=fewer kids picked up
    longer time=more kids picked up (and possibly fewer buses needed)
    longer ride times in Worcester "pretty minimal"
    special ed run times much more clustered towards 20-40 minutes
    some of that is loading and unloading, some on limited placement options
    deparment has actively tried to manage that
    "service levels are high for students"
    "number of seats being full" as part of study
    look for 50-60%; value of 52% on average
    planning for buses that are not full, lowers how full buses are overall
    seen again in special ed "side of house" often are less than capacity
    "capacity use of 40% or higher, certainly kudos to the department" on their use of assets
    "doing yeoman's work in doing what they can" (management)
    recommend revisions to transportation contract (intent is to find incremental savings); maintenance records keeping; limited policy revisions including walk-to-stop and opt-in/opt-out system; hire additional staff for routing
    going to busing only K-6 would remove 18 buses from the system, plus discontinue the use of WRTA passes, for a reducting of $1.2 million, which would "require a significant redesign of system"
    "Based on the non-transportation issues that would arise, we don't think that this is in your best interest to do"
    (yeah, me, either)
    "This is not a model that we are recommending."
    Foley: "it does support the work of John Hennessey and his entire department and the folks at Durham..."
    elimination of gr 7-12 transportation is a programmic and an operational discussion
    greater utilization of our buses to save money
    "don't see any cost-benefit analysis" on the reduction of buses; "if you save X amount of dollars, it would mean an average ride time of 45 minutes" or what have you
    (response)"when we look at the results of what would happen, I do think we'd have to increase it beyond that 25 minute average"
    "don't think it would be dramatic; 30-35 minutes on average"
    Foley: different routes, longer drive times, what savings?
    (response) 6 to 8 buses could be pulled out
    Economou: certainly shows how well Mr. Hennessey is running his department
    "take one route, add one or two more stop, pick up a bus"
    "get a little more leeway in pick-up and drop-off times at schools" (note that this would require a contractual change with teachers)
    "not sure in my mind about eliminating grade 7-12 buses...but opt-out...could look at reuse of bus and the route"
    Ramirez: clarification on chart with number of students and number of buses
    Toomey: asks if we have GPS on buses (we do, but it's not public tracking, for safety reasons)
    have voluntary school choice, magnet programs
    folks have always said "just cut the high school buses"
    do think the opt-in/opt-out system could work
    going back to neighborhood schools, it doesn't work right
    "I'm not seeing a lot of cost savings"
    Hennessey: parent will fill out a form, but student will never ride
    take several passenger counts during the school year, stop by stop; stop not eliminated right away; after a certain amount of time without students is eliminated
    Toomey: what did you use for comparisons? (response) Council of Great City Schools; compared to Michigan and Pennsylvania (districts of similar size); other districts that they've analyzed; "there are not great industry" data sources
    Toomey: "were gas prices the same?" "In some places they're higher, and in some places they're lower"
    Rosen: "obviously eliminating busing options" saves money
    "how common is it for districts to eliminate 7-12 buses?" (response) it varies
    could we then offer a mini-transportation program and charge for it? (the answer is you could, but you'd have to do it over the superintendent's objections.)
    Rosen: could we charge a fee? (we could, but not for K-6)
    Suggestion that we try to get more special education students to ride on regulat ed buses; has this been done? (response) mainstreaming in both directions; kids of all kinds on all kinds of buses
    procedurally requires a great deal of education, as well as management of behavior, confedentiality
    O'Connell: would we be smart to have our administration work on a reconfigured transportation system?
    Economou: when you talk about assets, do you mean the buses or the students?
    is it longer to make two stops with an equal amount of students or one stop with twice as many students?
    (response) it depends, but stopping the bus twice takes longer, usually
    also, where bus stops are is an operational issue as well as an economic issue?

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