School Bus Fleet

July 2014

A management & maintenance magazine for school transportation fleets

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industry news School bus pilot program discontinued (BY THOMAS MCMAHON) ETIWANDA, Calif. — A pilot trans- portation program that Etiwanda School District launched in March was discontinued because it "did not gen- erate the interest nor the revenue that was expected," district offcials said. Of the 1,008 students who were eligible for the pilot program, 254 participated (about 25%). To qualify, students had to live at least 3 miles from their elementary or middle school of residence. In the program, described as a "shared cost model," parents paid $40 per month per student, with the dis- trict contributing the remaining cost. Some students qualifed for free or re- duced-cost transportation. District offcials had projected that the 40-day pilot program would bring in $43,000 in revenue, but the actu- al revenue was much lower: $12,640. Also, the daily cost of the program was $1,666 — which was 63% higher than the projected daily cost, $1,021.64. District offcials said that expenses were greater because of the addition of bus routes to ensure that students were dropped off and picked up from school in a timely manner. "Due to the increased expenses and lower revenues, the monthly rates [that parents would pay] for any fu- ture transportation program would have to be much greater, which would result in even lower participation," Etiwanda Superintendent Shawn Jud- son said in a letter to parents. "Any future transportation program would also require changing start and end times at several schools, causing ad- ditional inconvenience for families of students not participating in the trans- portation program." On May 1, the district's board of trustees approved a staff recommen- dation to discontinue the pilot pro- gram after the last day of school, which was May 22. As of the 2014-15 school year, only special-education transpor- tation will be provided. Outside of the pilot program, Eti- wanda School District has been with- out regular-education school bus ser- vice since the 2010-11 school year, when it was cut due to budget issues. On Dec. 4 of last year, 9-year-old Ashlyn Gardner and her 7-year-old brother Landon were crossing a street near their school when they were struck by a pickup truck. Ashlyn was killed. After the accident, local parents started two online petitions calling for the return of school bus service to in- crease safety for students and to re- lieve traffc congestion. In January, the Etiwanda board de- cided to implement the pilot trans- portation program, which began on March 25. "The board and district adminis- tration are disappointed that the pilot transportation program did not work for a larger number of our families," Judson said in his letter to parents. "The district will continue to look for alternatives and additional opportuni- ties to reduce traffc congestion." 6 S C H O O L B U S F L E E T • J U L Y 2 0 1 4 SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — Faced with a demanding feld trip schedule and the continued need to save money, William S. Hart Union High School District's transportation department has designed its own activity buses in collaboration with A-Z Bus Sales, and the transporta- tion department expects to save around $4,000 per trip on the longest trips by using these vehicles. In a given week, the operation can provide transportation to the district's students for 200 feld, activity and athletic trips. Director of Transportation Richard Varner told SBF during a visit to the opera- tion that with the high number of trips and the average cost to get a charter bus for the trips, he decided it was necessary to explore more cost-effective options. He then came up with the idea to develop the district's own activity buses. Varner purchased three brand new Blue Bird Type D buses and prepared the specifcations for the vehicles to turn them into activity buses. Spec'ing the ve- hicles took three years. "It took three years because the coach-style seating had to be crash tested," Varner explained, adding that the seats have seat belts. In addition to coach-style seats, the activity buses — which have been certifed by the California Highway Patrol — are equipped with overhead open storage compartments, a ducted air-conditioning system and Wi-Fi capability. Each bus can accommodate 44 students. "Initially, we wanted 46 students to a bus, but we removed a row of seats to provide the passengers with more legroom," Varner said. (The buses are often on the road for three to four hours during trips.) The cost to convert the buses was $35,000 each, and they were funded through a lease purchase. Varner estimated that using these activity buses will cost around $2,000 per trip on the longest trips, which will yield a substantial savings considering that the average cost to get a charter bus for the longest trips is around $6,000. Activity buses could save $4,000 per trip BY KELLY AGUINALDO William S. Hart Union High School District has spec'd these school buses with components to turn them into activ- ity buses. Features include coach-style seats, overhead storage compartments and a ducted a/c system.

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