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Chapter 9
STUDENT TRANSPORTATION

This chapter reviews the transportation operations of the Kerrville Independent School District (KISD) in four sections:

A. Organization and Management
B. Safety and Training
C. Routing and Scheduling
D. Fleet Maintenance

C. ROUTING AND SCHEDULING

The Transportation Department operates 14 regular routes, three special program routes, two Head Start routes, one route for students participating in a parenting program for pregnant students and those with children, three pre-kindergarten routes and one alternative program route. KISD covers 167 square miles.

All regular and special routes meet at central locations for students to transfer between buses. The district is opening new schools, a move that will affect routes and the transfer procedure in the 2002-03 school year. The Transportation director hopes that new zoning will reduce the number of students that must transfer. The Transportation director already has designed routes for next year to accommodate the new schools.

The Transportation Department has a procedure in place to evaluate potentially hazardous walking conditions and determine whether students should be bused as a result of such a hazard. The procedure is based on a suggested method in the Texas Association of School Business Officials' (TASBO's) Routing and Scheduling Professional Certification and Training manual.

FINDING

The Transportation Department keeps special program transportation costs low and productivity high by transferring special program students between buses at a central transfer location, Peterson Middle School. Such transfers help reduce operating costs by reducing the number of buses used and routes needed. In KISD, transfer points allow for more productive and efficient operations by collecting students in one area and then transferring them to a bus that will take them to their school. Transfers maximize bus capacity, consolidate trips and limit long, cross-town routes, resulting in more productive services and savings.

Among the peer districts, KISD has the lowest special program transportation costs and highest special program transportation productivity. Its cost per rider is 60 percent lower than the peer average, while its cost per odometer mile is 10 percent lower than the peer average. Its number of riders per reimbursable mile is 125 percent above the peer average and its number of riders per bus is 78 percent higher than the peer average. Drivers report that students perform well during the transfer.

COMMENDATION

The Transportation Department reduces costs by transferring special program students between buses at a central transfer location.

FINDING

KISD's regular program routing and scheduling are inefficient. Regular transportation costs have risen over the past few years. From 1998-99 to 2000-01, the cost per regular odometer mile rose by 33 percent, while the cost per regular rider increased by 28 percent. Regular program productivity statistics were lower than the peer average, with riders per reimbursable mile 9 percent lower and riders per bus 15 percent lower.

The Transportation director does not have an explanation for these patterns. The department does not analyze its routes and schedules for efficiency, which may explain why performance is lagging.

KISD has a database of student information, but the Transportation Department does not use it to aid its route design. The student database could be used to identify clusters of students and the schools they attend to help plan routes, determine potential bus stop locations and anticipate bus loads. Transit systems regularly use such data to design bus routes efficiently.

The Transportation Department does not have guidelines in place for designing routes and schedules. Such guidelines could help improve and maintain service quality and can be used to monitor department performance. For example, if maximum student ride times are established, the Transportation Department could determine what percentage of routes have student ride times exceeding the allowable maximum.

The TASBO Routing and Scheduling Professional Certification and Training manual lists guidelines for designing bus routes. The Transportation Department uses some of these guidelines, such as TASBO's method for determining hazardous routes. This use is informal, however, and should the Transportation director leave or retire, his replacement may not use the guidelines.

Specific examples of the need for guidelines include bus stop selection and maximum ride times. The district does not have a policy for selecting bus stops. The Transportation director would like the district to have a policy to ensure consistency and fairness and avoid parental conflicts. With regard to ride times, some routes are very long; some students ride the bus for more than an hour and a half each way. The school district industry rule of thumb is to keep ride times under one hour for all students. KISD's size and rural nature, however, may make designing shorter routes difficult. METROLift, the transit service for persons with disabilities in Houston, has set maximum ride time limitations for its riders based on the distance the passenger travels from pickup to drop-off.

The Transportation Department designs its routes and schedules manually. Many districts use automated routing and scheduling programs, such as Edulog, to assist them in designing routes. These programs follow guidelines set by the user to determine the most effective routing and scheduling. They also can analyze student population data. These programs are designed specifically for school transportation, but they are expensive.

Mapping programs with routing capabilities are designed and marketed toward business professionals, but have many functions that could be applied to routing and scheduling in school districts. The mapping programs can download and map address data from external databases, draw routes based on parameters such as speed and time, and determine the time and distance of each route segment. Multiple stops can be entered for routes to simulate bus stops. If a suggested route is inappropriate, route segments can be modified manually, and the programs will automatically refigure the times and distances. The programs can produce and maintain route maps and route descriptions. Polygons can be drawn to simulate attendance zones and the two-mile buffer around schools. Mapping programs also could help with route planning for out-of-town extracurricular trips.

Recommendation 56:

Design routes and schedules based on an analysis of student demographic data and established routing and scheduling guidelines.

The Transportation director should develop and document routing and scheduling guidelines, using the TASBO manual, peer districts' best practices and industry standards as a starting point. Location of bus stops, maximum ride times based on miles traveled and maximum bus loads are some of the areas the guidelines should address. The director should develop routing and scheduling guidelines for regular and special program routes to ensure high service quality for all riders. The guidelines should be shared with administration to demonstrate the Transportation Department's commitment to improving service quality. Some of the guidelines, such as bus stop location and maximum ride time, should be shared with parents as well.

The Transportation director should work with the Technology Department to research available mapping programs and identify which would be most useful for routing and scheduling school transportation. Once a program has been purchased, the Transportation director should download the district student database information into the program. The Transportation director should analyze the information every year to look for changes that require an adjustment to existing routes.

The Transportation director should enter all of the district's routes into the program and make adjustments according to the new routing and scheduling guidelines. When new routes are added or existing routes modified, the Transportation director should compare them to the guidelines to ensure that the guidelines are met. The program also should be used to evaluate routing effectiveness and efficiency. Since such programs automatically calculate miles and times, the Transportation director could test alternative routes to ensure efficiency and increase linear density to increase the annual state allotment.

The Transportation director should attempt to achieve a 10 percent reduction in regular program odometer miles, from 300,914 to 270,823, and a 14 percent increase in linear density, from 0.788 to 0.900.

IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE
1. The Transportation director researches routing and scheduling guidelines at peer districts and other transit providers. October 2002
2. The Transportation director develops and documents routing and scheduling guidelines for the Transportation Department. The Transportation director shares the guidelines with district administrators and parents.
January 2003
3. The Transportation and Technology Department staff research mapping programs for applicability in school transportation planning. February 2003
4. The Technology Department purchases and installs mapping software. April 2003
5. The Transportation director downloads the student database into the mapping program and conducts demographic analysis. May 2003
6. The Transportation director inputs the routes into the mapping program and ensures the routes meet the new routing and scheduling guidelines. June 2003
7. The Transportation director informs schools and parents of any new routing changes. July 2003 and Annually
8. Drivers learn the new routes. August 2003
9. The Transportation director reviews routes for efficiency, effectiveness and consistency with routing guidelines. Ongoing

FISCAL IMPACT

Decreasing regular program odometer miles by 10 percent, from 300,914 to 270,823, would save 30,091 miles per year. At a cost of $1.89 per regular program mile, the reduction would save KISD $56,872 per year. The savings are targeted to begin in the 2003-04 school year, when the new routes are implemented.

TSPR examined the price of mapping software. Some popular programs include XMap Business ($100) and Microsoft MapPoint 2002 ($250). Costs for the mapping software are estimated at $175.

Recommendation 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07
Design routes and schedules based on an analysis of student demographic data and established routing and scheduling guidelines. $0 $56,872 $56,872 $56,872 $56,872
One-time initial investment. ($175) $0 $0 $0 $0
Net (Costs)/Savings ($175) $56,872 $56,872 $56,872 $56,872