This chapter discusses EPISD's Transportation and Vehicle Maintenance Units in three sections:
- A. Organization and Management
- B. Routing and Scheduling
- C. Vehicle Maintenance and Bus Fleet Management
EPISD's Transportation Unit transports an average of 6,975 students per day to school and home on regular runs, and 2,027 students on special education runs. EPISD owns, operates, and maintains a fleet of 296 school buses to cover an average of 236 routes per day.
The Texas Education Code authorizes, but does not require each Texas school district to provide transportation between home and school, from school to career and technology training locations, and for co-curricular activities and extracurricular activities. The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires districts to provide transportation for students with disabilities if they also transport the general student population, or if disabled students require transportation to receive special education services.
The Education Code states that a school district is eligible to receive state funding for transporting regular and special program students between home and school, and career and technology students to and from vocational training locations. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) sets funding rules in accordance with the Education Code's requirements and state appropriations. Local funds must pay for any transportation costs the state does not cover.
For regular home-to-school transportation, TEA reimburses districts for qualifying expenses according to a formula specified by the Education Code. This formula is based on "linear density"-the ratio of the average number of regular program students transported daily to the number of miles operated daily. TEA uses this ratio to assign each school district to one of seven groups, each receiving a different per-mile reimbursement (Exhibit 10-1).
Exhibit 10-1Source: Texas Education Agency.
Categories of State Linear Density Reimbursement for Regular Bus Runs
Category Reimbursement per Mile Linear Density Range 1 $0.68 .000 - .399 2 $0.79 .400 - .649 3 $0.88 .650 - .899 4 $0.97 .900 - 1.149 5 $1.11 1.150 - 1.649 6 $1.25 1.650 - 2.399 7 $1.43 2.400 - 9.999
TEA reevaluates group assignments each biennium based upon the number of students and mileage reported to TEA by each school district. According to TEA rules, the linear density calculation in the first year of each biennium determines the funding reimbursement districts will receive for the next biennium.
State transportation funding for regular program transportation is limited to transportation for students who live two or more miles from the school they attend. The state does not fund transportation of regular program students living within two miles of their schools unless the students face hazardous walking conditions on the way to school. The state also will not pay for summer school transportation or for co-curricular routes that run between schools during the day.
Extracurricular transportation, including transportation to and from field trips and after-school and weekend events, is not funded by the state. In EPISD, most extracurricular transportation consists of transportation to and from athletic events, and individual schools must reimburse the Transportation Unit for these services. EPISD publishes a cost schedule for extracurricular transportation.
The state reimburses all transportation for special education students except for certain field trips. The Legislature has capped reimbursement for special program transportation at $1.08 per mile. EPISD's actual cost for transporting special program students in 1996-97 was $2.81 per mile. The special program, unlike the regular program, is not able to achieve efficiency by clustering students at bus stops. Each special program bus picks up students at their houses; therefore these routes are inherently more expensive.
Career and technology education transportation costs are reimbursed based upon the previous year's actual cost per mile for that type of transportation. EPISD received $2.45 per mile for the program in the 1996-97 school year.
Each school district is responsible for the capital cost of purchasing school buses. Districts may purchase school buses independently or through the Texas General Services Commission (GSC) under a state contract. Districts also may acquire buses through a lease-purchase process. EPISD has not purchased new buses since 1993, when it purchased 100 new buses with bond money to replace pre-1977 buses that did not meet federal safety requirements.
Exhibit 10-2 compares EPISD's transportation operating statistics and costs for the 1997-98 school year with those of a peer group of Texas school districts. The peer groups are in linear density groups V, VI, or VII. Two of the districts are in linear density group VI, the same as EPISD.
Exhibit 10-2Source: Texas Education Agency.
Ridership and Cost Statistics, EPISD Versus Peer Districts
1997-98 School Year
Regular Education Special Education Peer District Density Group Cost/Mile Cost/Rider Cost/Mile Cost/Rider Houston VII $1.95 $3.65 $1.80 $7.27 Ft. Worth V $1.97 $2.90 $1.98 $11.32 San Antonio VI $3.46 $2.71 $3.89 $13.63 Corpus Christi V $2.47 $4.35 $1.87 $6.23 Ysleta VII $2.48 $2.57 $2.57 $12.01 Socorro VI $1.89 $1.53 $2.37 $8.85 Peer Average $2.43 $2.95 $2.41 $9.88 El Paso VI $2.26 $2.78 $2.62 $13.84
EPISD is slightly lower than the peer average for regular education costs per mile and costs per rider. It is slightly higher than the peer group average for special education costs per mile and considerably higher than the peer group for special education costs per rider.
EPISD improved its costs per mile and per rider between the 1996-97 and 1997-98 school years. Regular education costs dropped from $2.56 per mile to $2.45 per mile, while special education costs dropped from $2.81 to $2.62 per mile. However, regular education costs rose to $2.78 per rider from $2.60 per rider, while special education costs rose to $13.84 per rider from $11.75 per rider.
Enrollment and ridership data comparisons are shown in Exhibit 10-3. EPISD ridership for regular education students is 4 percent below the peer group average of 18 percent. Ridership for special education students, at 34 percent, also is lower than the peer group average of 37 percent.
Exhibit 10-3Source: Texas Education Agency.
Enrollment and Ridership Comparison
1997-98 School Year
Regular Education Special Education Peer District School Enrollment Riders Percent Riders School Enrollment Riders Percent Riders Houston 189,309 35,784 19% 21,679 11,755 54% Ft. Worth 67,856 13,064 19% 9,045 2,231 25% San Antonio 53,623 6,188 12% 7,489 1,637 22% Corpus Christi 34,954 4,607 13% 6,021 1,738 29% Ysleta 42,933 6,704 16% 4,683 1,010 22% Socorro 19,821 6,638 33% 2,230 731 33% Peer Average 68,083 12,164 18% 8,524 3,184 37% El Paso 58,033 7,923 14% 5,876 2,027 34%
Exhibit 10-4 displays EPISD's transportation costs, mileage, and ridership changes for a three-year period. The largest categorical change over the three-year period was a 33 percent decrease in the cost of transporting special education students. The number of miles driven in transporting regular education students increased 14 percent and annual ridership for regular education students increased 13 percent. While the number of miles driven in transporting special education students increased 7 percent, annual ridership for special education students decreased 13 percent.
Exhibit 10-4Source: Texas Education Agency.
EPISD Transportation Costs, Mileage, and Ridership
Category 1995-96 1996-97 1997-98 % Change Total Operating and Capital Costs Regular Education $3,767,710 $4,271,782 $3,966,565 +5% Special Education $7,524,631 $5,105,343 $5,048,353 -33% Total $11,292,341 $9,377,125 $9,014,918 -20% Annual Miles Regular Education 1,539,596 1,671,084 1,752,436 +14% Special Education 1,809,066 1,819,476 1,929,639 +6% Total 3,348,662 3,490,560 3,682,075 +10% Annual Riders Regular Education 1,266,480 1,643,040 1,426,140 +13% Special Education 420,840 434,520 364,860 -13% Total 1,687,320 2,077,560 1,791,000 +6%