The New York City Council passed two bills last month, one requiring the placement of communication devices and tracking devices on all school buses by the start of the 2019-2020 school year in September. The other gives parents a more hands-on say when it comes to the transportation of their children.
The first bill, Int. 1009-2018 A, requires the Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT) to provide real-time GPS location of school buses to authorized individuals. Those persons include both parents and the New York City Department of Education.
The other bill, Int. 1148-2018 B, requires that OPT share bus routes with families 15 days prior to the first day of school. OPT is required to perform dry runs for the routes and report annually on how yellow bus routes are determined. It is also required to report the number of buses and staff members that are needed to meet goals and recommendations.
Corey Muirhead, director of contracts and business development for local contractor Logan Bus Corp., said that having reporting requirements is needed.
“It gives more transparency to the overall system, and it lets them [the parents] know that these companies are reputable, these routes are reputable,” Muirhead told School Transportation News. “They have enough drivers, they have enough vehicles, they did their dry run.”
Parents will now have access to an app that will allow them to track their children’s school bus in real-time.
“This bill would require each school bus used to transport students to and from schools pursuant to a contract with the Department of Education (DOE) to be equipped with a two-way radio or other communication device allowing communication with the operator of the school bus,” according to the bill. “This bill would also require each bus used to transport students to and from schools pursuant to a contract with the DOE to be equipped [with] a GPS a tracking device and requires authorized parents and guardians to have access to the real-time location of their child’s school bus whenever it is in use.”
Council Member Ben Kallos introduced both bills, with Council Member Chaim Deutsch co-sponsoring Intro. 1148-2018 B. Kallos said he saw a need for the STOP Program after the recurring transportation problems that arose at the start of every new school year.
“Drivers would get lost and/or not know the routes,” explained Josh Jamieson, communications director for Kallos.
Another reason for the bill was a “freak snowstorm” in November, when special needs students were stuck on buses for over 10 hours, Jamieson added.
Muirhead said the GPS tracking is good for the industry and was a system that was widely recognized locally as a necessary upgrade.
“You can track everyone on an Uber, on Find my Friends, all of these apps. You’d think you would be able to track the largest school system in America,” Muirhead said.
The council fast tracked this legislation to make sure all of the requirements would be implemented by September 2019.
“It’s ridiculous that in a school district as large as ours that this wasn’t a thing already,” Jamieson said.