This chapter reviews the San Angelo Independent School District's (SAISD's) student transportation operations and includes the following sections:
B. ROUTING AND SCHEDULING
SAISD transports approximately 2,824 students per day. The district operates 39 regular education and 18 special needs routes that serve 20 elementary schools, four junior high schools, two high schools and two alternative education campuses. Some of the 39 regular education routes include multiple runs. The district's service area covers 201 square miles.
The Transportation Department provides efficient and effective special education transportation by transferring ambulatory special education students between buses at central transfer locations. Transfers take place at two locations: Safety City, a district-owned facility, for elementary students and the county Mental Health and Mental Retardation building for junior and high school students. The district reports that the transfer process has been in place for many years.
In the transit industry, transfers help reduce operation costs by reducing the number of buses used and routes needed. In SAISD, the transfer points allow for more effective and efficient operations by collecting students in one area, then transferring them to a bus that will take them to their school. Transfers maximize bus capacity, consolidate trips and limit long, cross town routes, which results in more productive services and cost savings. Of the peer districts, SAISD has the lowest special education operation cost, with the cost per rider 55 percent lower than the peer average. Productivity is high, with the rider per mile statistics more than double the peer average, and the number of riders per bus is more than 20 percent higher than the peer average. The Transportation coordinator estimates he would need seven additional buses if the transfer points were eliminated.
The Transportation Department provides efficient and effective special education transportation by transferring ambulatory special education students between buses at central transfer locations.
As part of extracurricular trips, drivers fill out evaluation forms of sponsors and sponsors fill out evaluation forms on drivers. The coordinator said this procedure has been in place for about two years. Due to the recent staffing changes, the evaluation forms have been discontinued as the parts manager/trip coordinator learned his new job, but the Transportation coordinator plans to begin the procedure again soon. The Transportation coordinator said the forms have been useful in identifying problems between driver and sponsors.
The Transportation coordinator also put together a handout of expectations for both drivers and sponsors to help explain and clarify to both parties their responsibilities during field trips.
Comments received during a public forum were complimentary of the Transportation Department's operations during extracurricular trips. Verbatim public forum comments included:
- Buses are on time for field trips. Drivers maintain discipline and safety.
- I know when we have needed a bus they have always tried to work around our schedule.
- It is easy to arrange for a bus for a field trip. There is a simple process. Buses arrive on time and are clean. Bus drivers are safe and polite.
- Our transportation department does a great job transporting students to and from activities in a safe and timely manner.
- Reliable transportation for trips.
- The transportation service we get is great. When we turn in our paperwork for a bus, it is always there.
The Transportation Department has tools in place to evaluate extracurricular trips and improve customer service.
SAISD's bell times are not sufficiently staggered to allow buses to operate multiple runs, and the Transportation Department does not regularly analyze routes to look for efficiencies. In general, regular routes have poor route performance statistics compared to peers.
Staggered bell times allow routes to operate multiple trips, which reduces the vehicle and driver requirements and maximizes resources. Staggered bell times can also reduce the time students spend on a bus and can prevent mixing students of different ages. Some of SAISD's routes operate multiple trips, but many others do not. The Transportation coordinator estimates nine routes and 11 positions could be eliminated if bell times were staggered, saving $79,827 in driver and monitor salaries. In a memorandum to the superintendent, the Transportation coordinator recommended the following bell schedule (Exhibit 10-17).
Exhibit 10-17Source: Transportation Department memorandum to the superintendent, 2000-01 bell schedules.
Proposed Bell Schedule
School Type School Hours Existing High School 8:25 - 3:45 7:50 - 3:05 Junior High School 8:25 - 3:45 8:50 - 3:15 Elementary School 7:40 - 3:00 7:50 - 3:15 Alternative Elementary 8:45 - 4:00 Not supplied Alternative 9:10 - 4:30 Not supplied
Socorro ISD is one example of a district that successfully uses staggered bell times. Of the district's 53 regular routes, only five are scheduled for one bus trip, and of the district's 28 special education routes, only three are scheduled for one bus trip. If the bell times were not staggered, Socorro ISD's buses only could make one round trip, and the district would require an additional 47 regular education buses and 30 special education buses to make all of its runs. Each bus would require an additional driver. Additional mechanics and larger facilities also would be required to maintain the buses. Similarly, Beaumont ISD implemented staggered bell times during the 1995-96 school year to optimize bus use and reported a savings of $339,000 during the first year.
Stagger bell times to improve the performance of SAISD regular bus routes.
As part of the overall effort to reduce budget expenditures, the district has proactively adopted TSPR's recommendation and will begin observing the staggered bell schedule for the 2001-02 school year. As recommended, the new bell times will be less disruptive if implemented at the beginning of the school year.
IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE
1. The Transportation coordinator and special education supervisor evaluate routes for efficiencies. Complete 2. The Transportation coordinator presents the plan for staggered bell times to the executive director of Support Staff Services and the associate superintendent of Personnel. Complete 3. The associate superintendent of Personnel presents the plan for staggered bell times to the superintendent. Complete 4. The superintendent presents the plan for staggered bell times to the school board for approval. Complete 5. The school board approves the plan for staggered bell times. Complete 6. The Transportation coordinator and special education supervisor begin designing new routes and schedules based on the new staggered bell schedule. Complete 7. Schools are informed of the new bell schedule. Complete 8. Parents are informed of the new bell schedules and bus route changes. Complete 9. The Transportation coordinator eliminates eleven driver/monitor positions. September 2001
The Transportation coordinator estimates savings from the proposed scheduling changes by the elimination of the 11 driver/monitor positions. The total salary savings of the 11 positions is $79,827 in wages and payroll benefits per year.
Recommendation 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 Stagger bell times to improve the performance of SAISD regular bus routes. $79,827 $79,827 $79,827 $79,827 $79,827
Transportation's routes and schedules are developed manually even though the department has the Edulog system for automated routing and scheduling. The Transportation coordinator is responsible for regular routing and scheduling, while the special education supervisor is responsible for special education routing and scheduling. The Transportation coordinator said regular routes do not change much from year to year. Neither staff member uses Edulog to plan routes and schedules. The Transportation coordinator said he has found Edulog useful in analyzing student populations, but does not think the system would be as useful for routing and scheduling.
The special education supervisor has not received training on Edulog. The special education supervisor would like to use Edulog and is aware of its capabilities. He hopes to receive training this summer. The former special education supervisor, now a driver/trainer, instead of an Edulog representative, would conduct the training. Because Edulog is not used for automating routing and scheduling, the driver/trainer's level of knowledge of the program is questionable. In theory, if the driver/trainer had a high level of knowledge of the program, the department would have realized the benefits of the program and started using it to automate routing and scheduling. In addition, because the driver/trainer did not use the routing and scheduling function of the program on a day-to-day basis, she is not likely to be knowledgeable on certain aspects of the program in a real-life setting.
As shown in Exhibit 10-18, compared to peer districts, SAISD operates a low number of regular route miles per bus and has fewer regular education students per bus than the peer average. These performance indicators may be a signal that the district is inefficiently using buses and routing.
Exhibit 10-18Source: TEA School Transportation Operation Report and School Transportation Route Services Reports 1999-2000.
Peer Route Miles per Bus
District Regular Education
Route Miles per Bus
Riders per Bus
Route Miles per Rider
Abilene 5,246 56 0.52 Midland 11,422 47 1.36 Ector County 9,490 72 0.73 Waco 7,787 34 1.28 Peer Average 8,486 52 0.97 San Angelo 4,996 43 0.65
SAISD also transports a lower percent of regular and special education riders compared to total enrollment than all of the peers except Waco ISD. In 1999-2000, SAISD's rider capture rate, or percent of students bused compared to number of students enrolled, was 33 percent different than the peer average (Exhibit 10-19).
Exhibit 10-19Source: TEA School Transportation Route Services Reports 1999-2000, TEA AEIS Report, 1999-2000.
Ridership Capture Rate
Abilene 18,916 4,019 21% Midland 21,215 7,039 33% Ector County 27,294 9,278 34% Waco 15,608 2,135 14% Peer Average 20,758 5,618 26% San Angelo 16,405 2,824 17% Percent Different from Peers -21% -50% -33%
A low rider capture rate may be indicative of poor route coverage. Edulog can combine pickup locations in a way that reduces miles and buses and can examine more combinations in less time than is possible through manual routing and scheduling.
Automate Transportation routing and scheduling.
Through automated routing and scheduling, the Transportation Department can improve the performance of its regular routes. The Transportation Department should begin using Edulog to plan and schedule its routes. While large savings in a system the size of SAISD are not always possible, many small efficiencies can be found that can increase the overall effectiveness of the system. Edulog can also be used to reroute buses when staggered bell times go into effect.
The Transportation coordinator and special education supervisor should receive training in Edulog and use the system to regularly evaluate routes for efficiencies and improved route coverage. An Edulog staff member should conduct the training. Edulog staff know the program and the experiences of other districts.
IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE
1. The Transportation coordinator contacts Edulog for training opportunities. September 2001 2. The Transportation coordinator and special education supervisor receive training on Edulog. Ongoing 3. Transportation coordinator and special education supervisor evaluate routes for efficiencies. September 2001 4. The Transportation coordinator presents the proposed changes to the executive director of Support Staff Services and the associate superintendent of Personnel. September 2001 5. The associate superintendent of Personnel presents the proposed changes to the superintendent. September 2001 6. The superintendent presents the proposed changes to the school board for approval. October 2001 7. The school board approves the proposed changes. October 2001 8. The Transportation coordinator and special education supervisor begin designing new routes and schedules based on the proposed changes. November 2001 9. Schools are informed of the bus route changes. November 2001 10. Parents are informed of the bus route changes. November 2001
On-site Edulog training costs $600 per day, plus travel expenses for the trainer. A three-day training session for the special education supervisor and Transportation coordinator will cost $1,800 for training and approximately $1,645 for travel expenses, or a one-time cost of $3,445 in 2001-02. When Edulog trainers conduct training sessions, they do not charge extra to train additional staff.
Recommendation 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 Stagger bell times and automate routing and scheduling ($3,445) $0 $0 $0 $0
SAISD does not have any management controls in place to manage extracurricular trips. Based on TEA data, in 1999-2000 SAISD operated 447,281 regular and special extracurricular miles at a combined cost of $1.74 per mile. Forty-eight percent of all odometer miles operated by SAISD in 1999-2000 were extracurricular miles, compared to a peer average of 24 percent. Excessive extracurricular trips can strain staff and vehicle resources, which causes overtime and requires administrative and maintenance staff to drive. According to district policy:
"The Board may approve use of District funds for school bus transportation of students and necessary personnel on extracurricular activities and field trips sponsored by the District. With the prior approval of the Superintendent or designee, school organizations may use school buses beyond the funds provided by the Board. The organization shall reimburse the transportation fund at a rate equal to the average operational cost per mile."
According to policy, the number of extracurricular trips any organization can have is unlimited, as long as the organization, with the superintendent's permission, reimburses its transportation fund for the cost of trips that exceed the allocated budget. With the superintendent's approval, trips are limited only by the amount of money organizations are willing to spend. The district's commitment to extracurricular trips is also demonstrated by its six motor coaches, which are dedicated to out-of-town extracurricular trips.
The Transportation coordinator and special education supervisor said extracurricular trips put the greatest strain on the department when it comes to staff and vehicle resources. As seen in
Exhibit 10-20, SAISD provides more extracurricular trip miles per bus than peer districts and is the only district of the peers whose regular extracurricular miles actually exceed regular route miles. SAISD provided almost 50 percent more regular extracurricular miles per bus than regular route miles in 1999-2000. Extracurricular miles increased dramatically from 1998-99 to 1999-2000, rising 86 percent from 239,909 miles to 447,281 miles.
Exhibit 10-20Source: TEA School Transportation Operation Report and School Transportation Route Services Reports 1999-2000.
Peer and SAISD Route Miles per Bus
District Regular Education Special Education Route Miles
Extracurricular Miles per Bus Route Miles
Extracurricular Miles per Bus Abilene 5,246 3,312 10,828 180 Midland 11,422 2,559 9,448 1,050 Ector County 9,490 6,108 21,871 792 Waco 7,787 2,881 10,885 174 Peer Average 8,486 3,715 13,258 549 San Angelo 4,996 7,532 7,213 2,106
The extracurricular trips not only strain resources, but they also contribute to overtime problems. The department tries to use its on-call drivers as much as possible for extracurricular activities to avoid overtime. In addition to overtime hours worked, many staff, such as mechanics, will drive during their usual eight-hour day. These additional hours are not tracked, so the amount of administrative and maintenance time lost to driving is unknown. However, any time in these areas lost to driving is problematic because employees in these areas are prevented from focusing on their main duties and responsibilities.
Principals or the Athletic director and the Business Office approve extracurricular trips, but principals are not aware of the Transportation Department's staff availability or vehicle resources on any given day. The Transportation coordinator does not have the authority to limit extracurricular trips; therefore, all trip requests are honored, including last minute changes. He does, however, try to work with sponsors to reschedule trips. Trips can be scheduled at any time of day, and they sometimes can overlap with route times. According to several Transportation staff members, during one day in March, the department operated more than 80 extracurricular trips.
Different districts take different approaches to operating extracurricular trips. Some districts, such as Killeen ISD, strongly support extracurricular trips and have dedicated trip bus fleets and trip drivers. However, during a review of Killeen ISD in 1999, TSPR found that route service quality suffers as a result of unlimited extracurricular trips. Other districts, such as Fort Worth ISD, set up policies to restrict trips. To avoid conflict with scheduled routes, Fort Worth ISD limits extracurricular trips to the time periods when scheduled routes are not driven, such as midday and after 5:00 p.m. However, the FWISD Transportation Department has difficulty enforcing the restrictive scheduling policy because many exceptions are allowed.
Implement an extracurricular trip policy to manage extracurricular resources effectively.
SAISD should strive to reach a middle ground between allowing unlimited extracurricular trips and restricting extracurricular trips. As with Killeen ISD, SAISD should dedicate resources to providing extracurricular trips, but should also manage the resources effectively by establishing reasonable boundaries. For such an approach to work, several elements must be in place: empowerment, resources and boundaries. This idea represents a private sector approach to managing resources.
First, the Transportation coordinator must have the authority to negotiate moving the day or time of trips, but should also have the authority to refuse transportation for extracurricular trips. The Transportation coordinator is the individual most familiar with the resources of the Transportation Department and the staff and vehicles available for extracurricular trips. Allowing the Transportation coordinator to refuse or negotiate the time or day of trips based on available resources will help avoid overtime and the strain on department's resources.
Second, to demonstrate the district's commitment to providing extracurricular trips, the district should dedicate adequate resources to those trips. The district already has six motor coaches dedicated to this purpose. Twelve of the district's yellow school buses should also be dedicated to extracurricular trips. A dedicated fleet will help set boundaries on the number of extracurricular trips offered.
Third, SAISD should set boundaries that reasonably limit extracurricular trips. Boundaries should be set in four areas: timely scheduling of extracurricular trips, peak hour trips, non-peak hour trips and out-of-town trips.
- Timely scheduling of extracurricular trips. SAISD should set a policy requiring all trips to be scheduled at least one week in advance. Sponsors that schedule trips less than one week in advance or make changes to the schedule less than one week in advance should be charged a fee. The department should calculate the average cost of these changes and overtime each year to determine an appropriate fee. Some last-minute field trips are unavoidable, such as when an athletic team advances to the next level of a competition. The district could consider waiving the fee for these exceptions.
- Peak hour trips. SAISD should set a policy to discourage local extracurricular trips during peak hours, which generally run from 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Local trips should be scheduled between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. and after 5:00 p.m. To discourage local trips that overlap with peak times, a fee should be charged for trips scheduled in peak times. The department should calculate the average cost of overtime caused by overlapping trips each year to determine an appropriate fee. No more than three overlapping trips, or six trip buses, should be allowed per day. Once this limit is reached, the Transportation coordinator should begin denying peak hour trips.
- Non-peak hour trips. The Transportation coordinator should limit non-peak hour trips to 23 trips, or 46 buses. This number reflects the number of route buses needed each day for the peak, which can then be used for extracurricular trips during off-peak hours. Once this limit is reached, the Transportation coordinator should begin denying or negotiating to move non-peak trips to new times.
- Out-of-town trips. Many SAISD schools compete with schools in other cities that are hundreds of miles away, so it will be necessary for some out-of-town trips to leave during peak hours to arrive at their destination on time. However, the number of out-of-town trips operated per day should be limited. Out-of-town trips should be limited to either six trips per day, or to six motor coaches and six trip buses.
IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE
1. The Transportation coordinator develops policies for managing extracurricular trips. January 2002 2. The Transportation coordinator presents his proposed policies to the executive director of Support Staff Services and the associate superintendent of Personnel. February 2002 3. The associate superintendent of Personnel presents the extracurricular trip management policy to the superintendent. March 2002 4. The superintendent presents the extracurricular trip management policy to the school board. April 2002 5. The school board adopts the extracurricular trip management policy. April 2002 6. The Transportation coordinator informs extracurricular sponsors of the change in extracurricular management policy. May 2002 7. The Transportation coordinator initiates the new policy. June 2002
Placing restrictions on extracurricular trips will encourage more local trips since local trips are less likely to overlap peak hours. It will also limit the number of high-mileage, out-of-town trips. As a result, the number of extracurricular trip miles operated each year should decrease. This recommendation should help the department target reductions in extracurricular mileage.
SAISD operated 239,909 trip miles in 1998-99. The department should target a one-fifth reduction in extracurricular trip miles over four years, or a cumulative 5-percent reduction per year. This change will reduce extracurricular mileage to 364,313 miles per year by 2005-06.
Exhibit 10-21 below demonstrates the cumulative 5-percent reduction in miles each year and the estimated savings based on the cost of $1.74 per mile.
Exhibit 10-21Source: TEA School Transportation Operation Report, 1999-2000, TSPR.
Reduction in Extracurricular Miles
2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 Miles Operated 447,281 424,917 403,671 383,488 364,313 Difference from Previous Year - 22,364 21,246 20,184 19,174 Cumulative Total Miles Saved - 22,364 43,610 63,793 82,968 Total Savings - $38,913 $75,881 $111,001 $144,364
Developing the authority, policy and goals of this recommendation should begin in January 2002 to prepare for implementation in the next school year. Therefore, there will not be a realized savings until 2002-03. The accumulated savings over the next four years is estimated to be $370,159 and will reduce extracurricular trip miles by one-fifth. The estimated reduction in miles will reduce the percent of extracurricular miles operated compared to odometer miles to 38 percent.
Recommendation 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 Implement an extracurricular trip policy to manage extracurricular resources effectively. $0 $38,913 $75,881 $111,001 $144,364
The Transportation Department does not track the actual cost of providing extracurricular trips and therefore cannot accurately determine costs.
The staff manually schedules extracurricular trips. Sponsors submit trips requests in writing. The parts manager/trip coordinator enters data from the trip requests into a spreadsheet, which he uses to help make driver and bus assignments. The parts manager/trip coordinator said the most time-consuming part of his job is entering data from trip requests into the spreadsheet he uses to make assignments. He also said trip sponsors frequently do not fill out the forms fully and write in "To be determined" when they are not sure of times or dates. He said this omission complicates scheduling trips.
After the trip, mileage is entered into a program called Trip Tracker, which is part of the district's billing and accounting system. Trip Tracker has fields for individual trip accounts, date of the trip, mileage, length of the trip in hours, destination and the number of vehicles used. For many of the entries, hours are entered as zero because the person (for example, a mechanic) driving was working during their normal work hours. The Transportation coordinator said the department uses this method because Trip Tracker is a billing program and unless the mechanic earns overtime as a result of driving, reimbursement for the mechanic's time is not needed.
In the past, organizations have been charged 80 cents per mile for field trips. This amount does not fully recover actual trip costs, which are $1.48 for regular education odometer mileage and $2.54 for special education odometer mileage based on TEA data. In 1995, TSPR reviewed the district and recommended increasing the cost per mile to fully recover costs; however, according to TSPR's SAISD Progress Report, the recommendation was not implemented. The district provided no reason for not implementing the recommendation.
For 2001-02, the cost per mile will rise to $1.19, which is an amount determined by the Transportation coordinator and the assistant superintendent of Budget and Finance as adequate to cover actual costs. The Transportation coordinator said his methodology for determining the $1.19 charge was to divide all expenditures that have a 3600 accounting code in the budget for one year by the total number of extracurricular miles operated that same year. The 3600 accounting code covers extracurricular expenditures. While the methodology for determining the cost per miles is sound, the expenditures under the 3600 accounting code do not reflect all expenditures for extracurricular trips because the time for some employees is not reflected in the 3600 accounting code. TSPR estimates the actual cost per mile is $1.74, as shown in Exhibit 10-22 below. Extracurricular miles make up 48 percent of all miles, and are, therefore, assumed to make up 48 percent of the total operating budget.
Exhibit 10-22Source: TEA School Transportation Operation Report 1999-2000.
Estimated Actual Cost per Extracurricular Mile
Total Miles 926,957 Total Extracurricular Miles 447,281 Percent Extracurricular Miles 48% Total Operating Budget $1,611,937 48 percent of Total Operating Budget $777,802 Extracurricular Cost per Mile $1.74
Many school districts use trip-scheduling software to schedule their extracurricular trips. Such software can be purchased or can be developed in-house. Fort Worth ISD and Dallas County Schools both designed trip-scheduling programs to manage their extracurricular trips. The programs are linked to each school so teachers can enter a trip request online, which eliminates data entry by the Transportation Department staff. Killeen ISD uses a commercial program called TOM to schedule and track its extracurricular trips. Edulog offers an extracurricular trip-scheduling module than can be purchased. These programs assist with scheduling trips and keep track of extracurricular trip data.
To avoid incomplete trip requests, in-house software can be designed so that certain fields must be entered. For example, if the time and date are required fields, the system will not allow the trip request to be entered unless those fields contain valid dates and times. Some commercial programs may also have this capability.
Develop an extracurricular trip management program to automate trip requests, automate trip scheduling and track the actual costs of extracurricular trips.
The Transportation coordinator should work with the Technology Department to develop and implement field trip scheduling and tracking software system. The Technology Department should contact Fort Worth and Dallas County Schools to gather information on how those districts' systems work.
The system should be linked to each school. Trip sponsors can enter trip requests directly in the system. Certain fields in the program should be designated as required to avoid incomplete trips requests. Once entered, the sponsors' principals can review the trip requests online and forward them to the Transportation Department upon approval.
The system also should be linked to SAISD's accounting system to avoid entering duplicate information. Once a trip is complete, mileage can be entered and the trip record can be forwarded to the Accounting Department for processing. All staff hours should be recorded in the system. A field for "Actual Hours" that is not forwarded to Accounting could be set up for internally tracking actual hours spent driving extracurricular trips. The actual number of hours should be added when calculating the cost per mile of trips.
This system should be capable of producing trip reports to track mileage, costs and labor hours for both the regular bus fleet and the motor coaches. Appropriate cost-per-mile charges should be developed to fully recover costs, including the cost of labor.
System installation should be planned for the end of the 2001-02 school year. The staff of the Technology Department and Transportation Department will then have the summer months to test the program and ensure the system is operating correctly.
IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE
1. The Transportation coordinator meets with the Technology Department to plan development of an extracurricular trip scheduling system. November 2001 2. The Technology Department develops and installs the system. May 2002 3. The Transportation coordinator and Technology Department staff develop instructions on how the system operates and guidelines for using the system to schedule trips. An instructional handbook is provided to all schools and potential trip sponsors. May 2002 4. The Transportation Department begins using the trip-scheduling program to schedule and track extracurricular trips. June 2002 5. The Transportation coordinator evaluates the actual cost of providing extracurricular trips and uses these data to adjust the cost-per-mile statistics of extracurricular trips each year. Annually
This recommendation can be implemented within existing resources. Although the cost per mile of extracurricular trips will increase for sponsors, SAISD will not experience any cost impact because funds will merely be moving from one account to another within the district.