CHANCELLOR CARRANZA ANNOUNCES PARTNERSHIP WITH VIA TO LAUNCH “VIA FOR SCHOOLS” GPS AND PARENT APP FOR ALL SCHOOL BUSES
Buses will be equipped with GeoTab GPS technology for first day of school
NEW YORK – Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza today announced a partnership with Via to launch “Via for Schools,” a state-of-the-art integrated, automated school bus routing, tracking, and communication platform. In addition, GPS capabilities through GeoTab will be installed on every bus that does not currently have GPS by the first day of school.
“We’ll have GPS in every bus on the first day of school, and through our partnership with Via, we’ll soon have a state-of-the-art app for families to track buses and get real-time automatic updates,” said Schools Chancellor Richard A. Carranza. “We are grateful for the City Council's advocacy, leadership and partnership. Safe and reliable transportation is critical for all families, and we’re committed to getting it right this year.”
“We are delighted to partner with the New York City Department of Education to provide the first comprehensive, integrated, and automated school bus routing, tracking, and communication platform in the world,” said Daniel Ramot, co-founder and CEO of Via. “This new technology will not only provide greater transparency for parents and students, but also improve operational efficiency, putting New York City schools at the forefront of smart innovation.”
For the first time ever, parents received bus route information more than two weeks ahead of the school year. As the largest school district in the nation, every day the NYC Department of Education (DOE) safely transports approximately 150,000 students on 9,000 bus routes to and from schools across the city.
Pending approval by the Panel for Educational Policy and the Comptroller’s office, the DOE will partner with Via, a leading provider and developer of transportation solutions, to develop and implement a state-of-the-art system that improves service for parents, students, and bus vendors including:
- Real-time tracking: Implemented through a GPS-enabled tablet running the “Bus Driver App,” which provides drivers with turn-by-turn navigation and digitally records student ridership.
- Parent mobile application and administrative console: Families and students will have access to automatic updates via a mobile app. The app will provide updates on bus location, student ridership, route changes, and vehicle delays. School staff and central DOE administrators will have web access to the entire transportation system and the ability to share system-wide updates, including weather closures, with drivers, parents and students.
- One streamlined system: While the DOE contracts with approximately 60 bus vendors every year, this system will streamline all information into one system to allow for better tracking and information sharing.
- Automated and dynamic vehicle routing: Routes will be optimized daily for traffic conditions to improve the length of routes.
Installations of the Via GPS system will begin on a rolling basis this school year.
About two-thirds of routes (6,000 of our 9,000 routes) serve special education students and are equipped with GPS capabilities through Teletrac Navman, which provides up-to-date information to the Office of Pupil Transportation (OPT) on the location of these buses. Parents can receive individual route information by calling OPT. Previously, general education and pre-K routes had two-way radios on all buses. If a parent wanted an update on the location of their child’s bus, OPT would contact the bus company, which used the two-way radio to convey location information.
The Via GPS system will build on steps the DOE has taken to improve bus transportation over the past year. Beginning in Fall 2018, Chancellor Carranza took action to revamp the DOE’s bus system and put a new leader in place who has spent the last year focusing on improving service and communication. Under the leadership of Kevin Moran, who serves as Senior Advisor to the Chancellor on Transportation, OPT met with families, bus vendors, and school leaders for their feedback on how to improve the system. The DOE also streamlined the fingerprinting and background check processes, as well as all investigations of bus driver or attendant misconduct. The DOE has worked closely with the City Council throughout the last school year to ensure that bus service and communication with families improves for the 2019-20 school year. We are working diligently on both short- and long-term plans to place GPS on all buses beginning this school year.
Additional improvements over the course of the past year include:
- Individualized schedules, locations, pick-up and drop-off times for each student via their New York City Schools Account (NYCSA) which parents can create at https://mystudent.nyc/.
- Insourcing and fully staffing the OPT call center to create greater continuity and quality of service for families.
- Developing a Bill of Rights and Transportation Guide that will be available on the DOE’s website and distributed to all families so they know the support and resources available to them for all transportation needs.
- Restructuring OPT with clearer lines of responsibility, enhancing quality control and oversight.
- Working with the bus companies to enhance bus dry runs to two per route in advance of the school year, along with greater financial accountability by transit providers for tardy service.
By the first day of school, there will be GPS capabilities on all buses, including general education and pre-K routes. This will allow OPT to accurately track all routes digitally, and provide every family with the same real-time updates currently on our special education routes. By streamlining and digitizing tracking, there will be a greater capacity for parent support through the call center.
“As New York City school parents, the addition of GPS to school buses adds not only peace of mind but accountability,” said Meghan Cirrito, District 30 parent and Gantry Parent Association President. “The successful rollout of GPS and the DOE’s dedication to finding the best product for NYC students going forward is a testament to the willingness of the New York City Council and Department of Education to work as partners in implementing a solution that helps students and families, and it is appreciated as we head into a new school year.”
In January 2019, the New York City Council, led by Speaker Corey Johnson and Education Chair Mark Treyger, passed the Student Transportation Oversight Package (STOP) relating to city school buses, including mandating GPS and an app for parents, as well as 15-days advance notification to families of their students’ bus routes for the upcoming school year.
“I commend the Department of Education for installing GPS technology on school buses, which is an important step towards ensuring safety for our school children,” said Speaker Corey Johnson. “The Council will continue to hold the Office of Pupil Transportation and the Department of Education accountable for getting students to and from school safely. I thank Council Member Mark Treyger, Chair of the Council’s Education Committee, and my colleagues for their leadership and commitment to our City’s students and their families.”
“The Council is proud to bring OPT to the 21st century. Reliable bus transportation is a key element to ensure our students are safely bussed to school every day. I’m proud to have been part of the Council team, led by Speaker Corey Johnson, that held an oversight hearing on school buses and sponsored the legislative package for increasing accountability in OPT and the bus service companies,” said Council Member Mark Treyger, Chair of the Committee on Education. “We welcome fines for bad actors and I appreciate that the DOE will have GPS technology on the entire fleet by the beginning of the school year including active GPS on half the fleet. I’m looking forward to seeing the innovative partnership with Via improve real-time tracking information. Going forward it’s critical that we continue to engage our parent community. Ultimately, all efforts will be graded on OPT’s ability to safely and timely transport our students to school,”
“Every parent has a legal right to know where the school bus is with their child. For the first time ever, parents are getting their school bus routes more than two weeks before the start of school with enough time to raise concerns and hopefully avoid hours-long trips on the first days of school,” said Council Member Ben Kallos, author of Local Laws 32 and 33 of 2019. “I am committed to working with the Department of Education to empower parents to get the best bus routes for their children and on the first day of school, parents and teachers can track their school bus. As a new parent, I can’t wait to have the Via app for school buses. Thank you to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Richard A. Carranza as well as Speaker Corey Johnson, Education Chair Mark Treyger, and co-sponsor Chaim Deutsch for making student transportation a priority.”
"I am proud to have been the prime sponsor of legislation that created this school bus ridership guide and bill of rights," said Council Member Daniel Dromm. "Now all families will be informed of what they should expect from those who transport our students to school every day. By including information for students living in temporary housing and foster care, and by making this information available in several languages, my legislation ensures that the wellbeing of all our students is taken into account. I am pleased to work with the DOE on this effort to strengthen public education in our city."
“I am thrilled to see that NYC Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza will be moving forward with the much needed tracking system for our New York City school buses,” said Council Member Andy King. “This tracking system will keep our parents along with school officials up-to-date on the whereabouts of the school buses transporting our precious cargo our children. This will minimize stress for parents by allowing them to know their love ones have boarded a vehicle that is monitored with a tracking system for location purposes. I would like to thank those for stepping up for this cause and I applaud Chancellor Carranza for his leadership in this matter.”
“I commend DOE and Via for their partnership to bring real-time tracking technology to our school buses and the families whose children we take into our care,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams. “A 21st century city demands 21st century communication for parents and guardians who deserve to know where their children are as they are transported to and from school, particularly those with students who face disabilities or other medical challenges. I was proud to advocate for Intro 1099-A’s passage through the City Council earlier this year, and I’m proud to see this announcement today that puts this law into action.”