Quick Start for:

A. Bus Fleet
B. Operations
C. Organization and Management
D. Facilities
E. Other Options

FINDING

Districts receive their state-funded transportation allotments based on a legislated formula. The formula, referred to as "linear density," is the ratio of the average number of regular education students transported daily to the daily number of miles traveled. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) assigns each district to one of seven linear density groups and allocates dollars based on where the district falls in the groupings (Exhibit 10-8).

Exhibit 10-8
Categories of State 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

Source: Texas Education Agency, Handbook on School Transportation Allotments.

As shown in the chart, the higher the linear density the greater the reimbursement from the state. In other words, when greater numbers of students can be transported in fewer miles, the level of state reimbursements increases. The linear density of MPISD was 0.83 in 1995-96. TEA uses this figure to calculate reimbursements for 1996-97 and 1997-98. The linear density in 1997-98, which is 0.987, will be used to calculate reimbursements for 1999-2000 and 2000-01.

MPISD, therefore, is in linear density group 3 for 1996-97 and 1997-98, for a reimbursement rate of \$0.88 per mile, which is approximately 55 percent of the MPISD's actual costs of \$1.60 (Exhibit 10-9). However, MPISD reimbursements will go up to \$0.97 in 1999-2000 and 2000-01 because its linear density rate for 1997-98 is 0.987.

Exhibit 10-9
MPISD and Peer Districts Transportation Costs Per Mile
Regular Transportation Program
1996-97
District Cost Per Mile Reimbursement Per Mile Linear Density Group Percent Reimbursed
Bowie Co. Coop* \$1.210 N/A N/A 92%
Paris \$1.420 \$1.25 VI 88%
Kaufman \$1.236 \$0.97 IV 78%
Corsicana \$1.486 \$1.11 V 75%
Greenville \$1.518 \$1.11 V 73%
Kilgore \$1.806 \$1.25 VI 69%
Athens \$1.733 \$0.97 IV 56%
Mt. Pleasant \$1.604 \$0.88 III 55%
Terrell \$2.095 \$1.11 V 53%

Source: TEA Transportation Operations Reports, 1996-97. * Liberty Eylau and Texarkana are in the Bowie County Cooperative

Exhibit 10-10 provides an overview of the times the buses are in operation and the total miles driven per day.

Exhibit 10-10
MPISD Bus Number, Times, and Miles Driven
1998-99
Bus Number Route Starting and Ending Times Total Miles Driven Per Day
2 6:40-8:00 3:10-4:30 88
8 6:40-8:00 3:10-4:30 72
3 6:45-8:00 3:10-4:30 87
51 6:45-8:00 3:10-4:30 53
33 6:40-8:00 3:00-4:30 70
6 6:25-8:00 3:10-4:45 83
16 6:30-8:00 3:00-4:30 100
29 6:30-8:00 3:00-4:45 91
21 6:45-8:00 3:00-4:30 97
5 6:30-8:00 3:10-4:45 123
22 6:55-8:00 3:10-4:30 57
12 6:30-7:30 2:30-3:30 70
37 6:50-8:00 3:10-4:14 32
18 6:00-8:30 2:30-4:30 101
11 6:00-8:00 2:30-4:15 102
35 6:40-8:00 3:10-4:20 39
25 6:40-8:00 3:30-4:30 67
39 6:40-8:00 3:00-4:30 51
31 6:40-8:00 3:10-4:45 91
28 6:45-8:00 3:10-4:30 30
49 6:30-8:00 2:40-4:00 103
13 6:45-7:45 3:35-4:25 77
40 am 6:00-8:30 10:30-11:00 pm 2:00-2:30 3:00-4:30 66
14 6:25-8:00 3:10-4:30 62
7 6:40-7:30 3:30-4:00 30
17 6:30-7:30 3:30-4:30 74
20 6:40-8:00 3:10-4:30 72
30 6:50-8:00 3:10-4:30 43
4 6:45-8:00 3:10-4:30 36
38 7:00-8:00 3:10-4:30 63
48 6:00-8:00 2:40-4:30 54
15 6:45-8:00 3:10-4:30 61
58 7:00-7:30 3:00-3:30 56
54 7:00-7:30 3:00-3:30 70
57 7:00-7:30 3:00-3:30 67
56 7:00-7:30 3:00-3:30 61
58 11:00-12:00 41
59 7:00-7:30 3:00-3:30 39
27/26 6:20-8:00 2:30-4:45 62
19 7:00-7:30 3:30-4:30 33
46 7:00-7:30 3:00-3:30 19
56 am 7:20-8:00 12:00-1:00 pm 5:15-6:00 8:00-8:30 28
23 After School 9
56 Between Runs 39

Source: MPISD Transportation Department, October 1998.

Although Exhibit 10-10 shows the starting and ending times for routes, it does not show the actual amount of time the students and drivers are on the bus. However, 50 percent of the student respondents to the transportation survey reported being on the bus from 30 to 90 minutes each run. Associated with this overall concern was the consolidation process at the high school, whereby regular program students are transported to the high school and transferred to other buses for transport to their respective schools. The staff referred to this consolidation process as the "Grand Central Station" effect, which increases the time students spend on a bus.

Although the newly appointed director of Transportation for MPISD is attempting to improve the district's data collection processes, updated information on the specific times of operation and student time on the bus were not available at the time of the review, and other records are also incomplete or missing.

A lack of accurate route, student, and school boundary maps did not allow the review team to conduct an intensive study to discover why the linear density is low compared to the peer school districts. Among the factors that probably contribute to the lower density rate are:

• Regular bus routes terminate at the high school, and students get off their original bus and then take another bus to their respective schools. As noted in Exhibit 10-7, a number of the routes have fewer students than the capacity of the bus, which indicates opportunities for consolidating routes or redesigning the routes to add more passengers.
• MPISD has a single bell schedule, which means that virtually all schools start and end in the same time frame. Many districts use multiple bell schedules allowing a single bus to run more than one route. If one bus is able to run two routes, the number of buses and drivers needed to transport all of the students could be reduced by as much as 50 percent.
• MPISD operates its system with few grade levels in a given building. However, the more grade levels placed on one bus to one area lowers miles driven and increases the number of students transported (linear density). MPISD has attempted to limit the number of overlapping runs by consolidating and redistributing the students at the high school. Unfortunately, elementary and intermediate students who ride the bus must be transported north to the high school to ride south to their school.

The Texas Education Agency's Transportation Department can assist MPISD in finding potential contractors to lend technical expertise in establishing staggered bell times and other routing improvements.

Recommendation 70:

Establish staggered bell times, increase bus ridership, and improve routing efficiencies.

The district should hire a consultant to implement the recommended improvements, which will increase the linear density and the level of reimbursements from the state.

IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE

 1 The director of Transportation, with input and support from the TEA Transportation Department, develops a request for proposals for establishing staggered bell times and other routing improvements and sends it to appropriate vendors. March 1999 2 The director of Transportation releases the RFP and recommends the best bidder to the assistant superintendent for Administration and Operations and the superintendent for approval. May 1999 3 The director of Transportation, along with the selected contractor, creates turn-by-turn maps indicating each regular, hazardous, and special education route, to include the number of students at each stop and time of each stop. June 1999 4 The director of Transportation, along with the selected contractor, reviews the routes and bell schedules for possible efficiencies to obtain more students per bus, less miles driven, and fewer bus routes. July 1999 5 The board considers bell schedule(s) and building grade level configurations and routing efficiencies for implementation. August 1999 6 The deputy superintendent of Administration and Operations evaluates the studies and recommendation(s). August 1999 7 The director of Transportation reconfigures the routes to obtain the recommended efficiencies. Fall 1999

FISCAL IMPACT

MPISD's reimbursement is \$0.880 for 1997-98, but will increase to \$0.97 beginning in 1998-99. The district was reimbursed for 375,898 miles in 1997-98 for the regular programs. Reimbursements for this mileage would go up to \$364,621 in 1998-99 (375,898 x \$0.97). The district received \$322,738 for 1996-97 (\$0.880 x 366,748 miles). It is assumed that MPISD can raise its linear density to at least 1.150, or Category 5, and increase its per-mile state reimbursement to \$1.11 beginning in 2001-02. This increases the district's reimbursements to \$417,246, an annual increase of \$52,625 per year over the \$0.97 per-mile reimbursement level. The cost of a contractor is estimated at \$3,500.

Recommendation

1999-2000 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04

Establish staggered bell times, increase bus ridership, and improve routing efficiencies.

(\$3,500) \$0 \$52,625 \$52,625 \$52,625

FINDING

TEA normally provides reimbursement for transportation costs for busing students to school for students who live further than two miles from the school to which they are zoned. However, districts can also receive reimbursement for up to 10 percent of its costs for busing students who live less than two miles from their school when the route to school is deemed to pose a safety risk to the students. Although "hazardous" is left to be defined by the district, TEA guidelines suggest areas having few sidewalks, busy roadways, or railroad tracks would qualify as hazardous.

The actual level of funding is figured by determining the number of miles of hazardous routes as a percentage of the number of total miles of regular education routes. MPISD has a hazardous busing policy that allows the district to provide busing to students who live within the two-mile limit on routes (Exhibit 10-11).

Exhibit 10-11
Hazardous Mileage
1995-96 through 1997-98
Item 1995-96 1996-97 1997-98 Total
Two-or-more-mile service 325,465 344,226 360,060 1,029,751
Hazardous area service 5,130 22,522 15,838 43,490
Percentage Hazardous 1.6% 6.5% 4.4% 4.2%

Recommendation 71:

Designate all appropriate hazardous routes and apply to the Texas Education Agency for the full hazardous busing entitlement.

The district should account for all students who are transported to school on hazardous routes and apply to TEA for the full 10 percent reimbursement.

IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE
 1 The director of Transportation creates maps of the areas and lists of students who are within two miles of the schools and are riding the buses. March 1999 2 The director reports hazardous busing in the 1999 route services report. May 1999

FISCAL IMPACT

If MPISD applies for 10 percent of the regular entitlement for hazardous route reimbursement, it could increase its reimbursements by 5.6 percent based on 1997-98 levels. This would result in 20,163 more miles in 1999-2000 (360,060 x .056). Based on MPISD's linear density, it will receive \$0.97 per mile in state reimbursements beginning in 1999-2000. At this level, MPISD could increase its reimbursements by \$19,560 per year.

Recommendation

1999-2000 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04
Designate all appropriate hazardous routes. \$19,560 \$19,560 \$19,560 \$19,560 \$19,560