We’re at the end of the third week of school already, and we wanted to share a few glimpses from inside the Transportation Department, and what goes on in the early morning hours each day (and sometimes late, late nights).
When did routing work start?
Over the summer, beginning in August, we started assigning students to bus stops and maintaining our routes. Best practice recommend doing this earlier, but due to other data restrictions, we decided to wait until we had the best data available to us.
Our routing system pulls from the SIS, or Student Information System, and feeds us the home address, etc. We also look at data from Final Forms (a portal where we ask parents to update information like new or additional addresses, phone numbers, etc.).
Why were some of the routes changed or modified?
One of the goals for this year in terms of routing was to shore up some of the longer routes, and make sure we stay on schedule, in terms of contractual language. Increasing the efficiency of some routes warranted changes to others.
For most routes, we aim at a 45 minute loop. That gives us some slack to adjust for traffic patterns, wait times at lights & accidents, etc. Snow is another factor we plan for, now, so that when it happens, our routes aren’t blown out of time, and cascade later and later during the AM or PM runs.
How do you deal with all the data to get it right?
It turns out, lots of the data we dealt with for routing was out of date. Many parents had moved over the summer, or not let us know their information had changed. Changes in daycare options, where last year a child went to one, and now another, had us juggling requests to make it happen before school started.
In the last three days before school, we successfully addressed over 400 change orders for bus stops, new and updated addresses, additional drop off or pickup information.
We also routed the newly enrolled students – we saw about 75 brand new students enroll in the week before school. Most of the days before school started, our team put in 12+ hour days to make it all come together for a successful first day of school.
How did you make it happen?
The result? About 1,400 students are transported daily, including K-12 students, preschool, Maplewood students, non-public schools, etc. All on 20 buses running 2 AM and 2 PM runs, serving 4 of our buildings, and other outlying areas.
We can’t say enough good things about our office staff and drivers that make it all come together – serving our kids here in Streetsboro.
Why can’t I have the stop from last year?
Routing buses all over town with the known time & resource constraints we have (only 20 buses & drivers) makes it a tricky puzzle to accommodate every request for service.
The Ohio Revised Code gives a school district some leeway in terms of what is expected in terms of bus stop locations, how far kids can be asked to walk to a bus stop (1/2 mile), etc. But, the law doesn’t take into account what the neighborhood looks like, the traffic patterns, or whether or not traffic speeds up and down streets.
That’s where our local knowledge comes in play, and based on historical data, we do the best we can to get all the kids routed efficiently. That means some things will change. That means that not everyone can be picked up at the end of their driveway. For every stop a school bus does, it’s one more chance that another motorist will crash in to them.
We try to increase safety the best we can, and one of the tools we have available are group stops. However, adding another stop, or even moving a stop down the street often compromises an entire route. It’s hard to appreciate the overall complexity of our routes until you’re able to see all of them.
Red Light Violations – what are they?
In short, it’s when a car passes a stopped school bus with its red blinking lights activated signaling they are picking up or dropping off students.
In the first few days of school, all in August, over 25+ red light violations were reported to dispatch by our drivers. That number is a very concerning to us, and we’ve only seen it increase starting last spring, and the behavior seems to be going strong this year as well.
Many of our drives report seeing drives actively looking down on their cell phones while passing a stopped bus. Unfortunately, we’re not able to report these drivers to law enforcement without video evidence.
We’re looking to run a pilot program utilizing a red light camera that activates when the stop arm / stop sign extends during a normal bus stop. Regardless, keeping our kids safe out there is becoming more and more challenging every day. Here’s what the ORC has to say about stopping for a school bus.
What happens at the bus garage each morning?
Thanks for asking! We’d love to show you sometime – feel free to book a time slot.
Most of our drives depart the garage between 6:20 AM – 6:30 AM to begin the first morning run to pickup SHS and SMS students. However, before they can start driving, they perform legally mandated pre-trip inspections to make sure the bus is safe to run, check the lights, brakes, air tanks, steering system, the condition of the tires, and run the emergency systems through a check to make sure the rear door functions, windows open. We also check the fire extinguisher, first aid kid, and a few other things. Every day. Every bus. Before leaving.
Office staff typically is on hand to update drivers in person on route changes, new students, or students that have left the district. And special announcements or considerations are shared with the drivers before they leave for the day.
Many of our drivers bring in feedback about how to make their route better, faster, and more efficient, and we try to accommodate that as much as we can for the benefit of the students. Our drivers, many of them longtime veterans here at Streetsboro, have deep knowledge of the city’s streets, traffic patterns, and community. Oftentimes they see things other don’t, and make suggestions that benefit both the kids and our routes.
Our mechanic, too, is ready to make quick adjustments to any bus that needs it, replace fluids, check a broken light, or install a GPS unit that just arrived. In the wintertime, our buses are plugged into an engine warmer, but even then, a few may have trouble starting, so he assists there as well. Again – all this happens before our drives leave around 6:30 AM.
When they get back, many drivers fuel their buses to be ready for the afternoon or a field trip. We stock diesel fuel we purchase in bulk on site, along with gasoline for some of our other vehicles. Each driver is responsible for maintaining their bus, including sweeping, emptying the trash can, etc.
Then we do it all again, starting around 2:15 PM to take the kids home. Every day.
I have questions about Transportation…
We have compiled the answers to a number of the most common questions we get over on the Transportation FAQ page. Please visit it to learn even more about all things Transportation. We keep updating it as we get questions. If you don’t see your question there, let us know in writing at firstname.lastname@example.org
Have a great start of the school year! More information to come about the “big yellows” in the near future…
Director of Technology & Transportation
Streetsboro City Schools