After years of busing snafus and complaints, new transportation app to be installed by summer
By Brandi Makuski
The purchase of some new software for the school district’s transportation department is expected to save time and fuel costs- and help heal a bruised relationship with bus-riders’ parents.
The new software will be interactive, according to district leaders, with bus routes and real-time bus locations available to parents both online and via a Smartphone app.
Tom Owens, business director for the district, said the current software being used is only about two years old and cost the district about $10,000, but it’s not working well.
“[The old software] works better for operations smaller than the one in Stevens Point,” Owens said of the 400-square-mile district. “It does not provide us, at this point, with some of the details we feel we need, like GPS.”
Owens said the new software will help bus drivers operate more efficiently, to include warnings about equipment failure.
“The software also monitors mechanical aspects of the bus, and performs diagnostics while it’s out on the road,” Owens said. “It could help us avoid breakdowns that we’ve experienced over the years.”
According to Transportation Director Brad Carriveau, who replaced the embattled John Shepard at the beginning of the school year, district officials will be able to make changes to student pick-up and drop-off locations in-house, as opposed to having to call the vendor, which is current practice.
Specific locations of both students and buses appear as dots on a virtual map, and can be changed quickly when a student’s family moves, or when a student needs transportation to or from a temporary location, such as a relative’s home or parent’s workplace.
The $80,000 price tag includes software, GPS monitors for the 76 older buses owned by the district- newer buses come already outfitted with the electronics, Carriveau said- and a warranty.
Carriveau said he’s managed to make “small changes” within the department to come up with the money for the new software, which he negotiated at a discounted rate. Carriveau also managed to secure thousands of dollars worth of training on the new system for less than $100.
The software brings with it an annual fee of $29,000, which goes largely towards cellular data for GPS systems and maintenance fees, for the contracted three-year agreement.
More than a matter of convenience, Owens said the new software provides parents with an additional element of safety.
“It’s not here yet, but winter is coming,” Owens said. “For parents to be able to see where the bus is online or on the app, that has a real safety component to that, because the kids won’t have to stand around outside in the cold weather. So it’s convenient for parents and kids.”
Carriveau and Owens will report back to the school board monthly with updates on the progress of the software implementation, which is expected to be installed in time for summer school.
The software will also track trips for athletic events and field trips taken by students, which will also be available to parents digitally.