Each school day, 3,500 children head off to school in one of Pekin, Illinois’ buses. The city has announced that ensuring the safety of these children was made a little easier by the installation of GPS tracking devices on each of these buses.
Currently, the transportation department splits up the bus contract between two districts: District 108 (the Grade School District) and District 303 (Pekin Community High School District.) Not for long, however, as the two will soon become one. This move will save each district some money, as routes will now be created by computer software to make them more efficient. Yes, there is currently software in use by District 108 (which it thoughtfully shares with District 303), but it is missing one key feature popular in the transportation industry: GPS tracking. “The current software sets routes and boundaries,” explains Ty Whitford, Pekin’s transportation director. “But it doesn’t monitor the buses.”
Beginning next school year, Whitford will be able to see the GPS location data for the city’s fleet of 66 buses. The software is key to alerting school officials whether or not a child got on or off the bus at any address on the list of riders or if they were skipped, and will hold the driver accountable accordingly. The software will also show the speed each bus travels at any time.
“There will be no more he-said-she-said” in cases where motorists report buses traveling too fast or slow or stopping traffic longer than necessary during their pick-ups and drop-offs,” explained Whitford. This software also allows parents to log on to a website to view the exact route their child travels each day to their respective school.
Both of the school districts and the city share the $35,000 cost of the new software, but it will ultimately belong to the city. Glayn Worrell, Business Manager of District 108, points out that merging the two districts’ bus services into one “will be looked on favorably by the state,” and hopes that this means an increase in revenue down the road. “The state is looking at changing its transportation reimbursement formula,” Worrell confirms, and he should know. He participated in a focus group of various school officials on the very subject.
“There is no incentive now for being efficient” to reduce transportation costs, but Worrell feels that the state will look to what happens in Pekin in the hopes it works out, at which point legislators may consider doing the same elsewhere in the state.