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Saturday, November 03, 2012

Transportation Task Force Recommendations

Here are the recommendations from the blue-ribbon committee put together to serve as a Transportation Task Force for Seattle Public Schools.

Here's the short version:

Conclusion
The Taskforce commends the District for desiring to reduce student transportation costs in order to protect classroom funding. The implementation of several of the recommendations by the District has started this process. District staff is applauded for initiating improvements such as:
  • Analyzing ridership, routes, cab use, and capacity Planning 2012-2013 routes to minimize cab and bus use
  • Planning to re-route buses after actual (instead of potential) ridership is known
  • Monitoring and reporting actual costs per student transported
  • Changing arrive/departure times at six schools to improve efficiency and control costs
  • Reviewed Special Education IEPs to verify appropriate transportation services were enumerated

Investment Required
Additional progress, however, requires the District to invest in staff and in management tools – investments that will more than pay for themselves. Investments include the:
  • Implementation of training and ongoing professional development of transportation staff;
  • Restoring the amount of transportation staff;
  • Purchase and support of tracking software;
  • Resumption of timely software upgrades; and
  • Automating on-time performance reports.
Until these investments are implemented, controlling student transportation costs remains problematic.

7 comments:

dw said...

What? No discussion of swapping elementary start times with middle/high?

(No, I haven't read through the long version, but if it was part of the "blue-ribbon" committee's recommendations I'm sure it would be mentioned here)

Chris S. said...

What does blue-ribbon mean, anyway?

Anonymous said...

Charlie, was this advisory committee or task force or whatever it is, that includes members of the public, formed in accordance with the procedures and policies of the District? When was it 'advertised'?

Who is on this thing?

What are their deliverables? Just a paper to say that the Transportation Department should be more efficient, more cost-effective, more service oriented, and basically better at their job (how about more humane too, while we are at it)?

Did we really need a task force to say, "hey guys, rationalize services, in every way possible!". Good thing we had a blue ribbon panel for this.

--sorry for the snark, but really...

Charlie Mas said...

The Transportation Advisory Committee was not formed in accordance with the District policy on advisory committees.

The names of the members are listed in their report.

They are done. Their report is their deliverable. sorry for the snark is right; it doesn't say anything novel or un-obvious. It mostly recommends hiring more staff.

Lori said...

People should take a look through the linked document. There's some interesting stuff in there.

Page 102: "We pay for fuel for the buses but there is no system in place to monitor it. How do we monitor fuel use?"

Really? We use an outside vendor for buses and we just pay whatever they say for fuel, with no way to monitor or even use math to estimate what fuel costs should be? When gas is $4/gallon? Wow.

Also on page 102: "Transportation needs to begin tracking costs" and on page 11, "Dan Payne said it was important to get an accountant for the department to have true route expenses."

This all is very weird to me when there is a major budget crisis going on that Transportation can't accurately track costs or even know how much it should be spending on fuel. Meanwhile, cuts are being made to classrooms right now, this year, while transportation has no controls in place to track expenses. Unbelievable.

Then there's bell times. Throughout the document, it's clear that major bell time changes are coming, regardless of the impact on students and learning. On page 43, "There was a reduction in the number of buses this year because of the transition to neighborhood schools and changing from a two to a three tier system... Going to a three tier system did reduce the number of buses, but the change was made without adjusting bell times. Moving to an efficient three tier system, bell times need to be changed."

Page 101: "Long term in the 2015-2016 school year, major changes will take place in bell times in addition to reviewing who we transport and where we transport. The Transportation Department needs to have a strong voice in the changes. Until now, the department has been purely reactive... Bell times must change before a true three tier system can be implemented.

Lori said...

One last comment on Transportation, this time about community stops.

I know a number of families who have been perplexed that the district moved us to community stops last school year only to dismantle that effort without any warning for this school year. Even more strange, when families communicated with the district, suggesting that returning to community stops for this school year could save both time and money, some district staff claimed not to know what we were talking about, going so far as to say that they'd never offered community stops!

So I can just say that having been a regular bus-riding family for 3 years now, I continue to be amazed at how we re-invent things each year.

Year 1, our stop was 3 blocks from home along an arterial. Worked well. Two other families used the stop.

Year 2, the district created community stops to save money; over the course of the year, we were assigned 3 different stops. The first one was 2/3 mile from our house (in the opposite direction of school, weirdly enough), then the next one was 1/2 mile from home, and the third and optimal community stop ended up 2/5 of a mile from home. Started off shaky but ended up working really well. Nice sense of community having several families at the same stop too.

Now, Year 3, the optimized community stop that ended up working so well is no longer offered. We are back to random neighborhood stops, but now they aren't even along major roads or arterials and buses are having to drive down narrow side streets, which takes time. This year, we walk 1/4 mile to a stop that is essentially someone's front lawn on a narrow side street where we wait alone for the bus. Other stops are literally 1 block away from each other! A route that had 9 stops last year now has 23 stops this year. I guess if the district was able to track expenses and fuel costs, they might see that moving away from community stops has increased ride times and increases fuel consumption!

then I look at this task force document, and it recommends creating for 2014/2015 something they now call neighborhood hub stops and says the district should investigate paying hourly staff to watch kids at these stops! How is *that* going to save money? Why do we lurch from system to system each year? What was wrong with the community stops implemented just 1 year ago? Why did we go back to neighborhood stops this year?

Is it any wonder why we can neither save nor account for money in this department?!

Jan said...

Lori said: "I know a number of families who have been perplexed that the district moved us to community stops last school year only to dismantle that effort without any warning for this school year. Even more strange, when families communicated with the district, suggesting that returning to community stops for this school year could save both time and money, some district staff claimed not to know what we were talking about, going so far as to say that they'd never offered community stops!"

I am stunned. I recall all the posts last year around the community stops issues. I had no idea they had just abandoned the idea -- and then developed such amnesia that they can no longer recall that they ever used to have them -- oh, say, 7 or 8 months ago! Aaaaagggghhhh.