August 2012

Monitor ridership, manage fleet with student tracking systems

Today’s solutions tell pupil transporters where and when students boarded and disembarked the bus. Officials from companies that offer the solutions say that having this information can help in answering parent inquiries, and by knowing how many buses are needed for transportation, operations can optimize routes.

By Kelly Roher

With Zonar’s ZPass student tracking system, students swipe an RFID card over a reader installed on the bus, and their name, the date, location and time that they boarded and disembarked the bus is transferred to the district or bus company.

Student tracking solutions provide pupil transportation operations with an efficient way to monitor their ridership, and with additional capabilities such as reporting on planned versus actual ridership, officials at the companies that offer these systems say they can help in managing fleets and optimizing routes.

Here are the features and specifications of four companies’ student tracking solutions.

Everyday Solutions Inc.
Everyday Solutions Inc. (ESI) offers a rider attendance application through its BusPadPro™ Mobile Data Terminal (MDT). BusPadPro is installed in the cockpit of the school bus and is connected to the onboard GPS transceiver so that data can be updated in real time.

The EveryRider™ attendance application provides the appropriate rider manifest for each school bus. As the bus moves from stop to stop, the list of assigned riders will display on the BusPadPro screen, according to Bill Westerman, vice president of marketing. The driver selects the name of each rider on the screen, and then the attendance data is sent to the central database.

ESI also offers a separate solution for parents and caregivers called HereComesTheBus.™ By logging on to any web-enabled computer, they can see their child’s bus travel to a stop and then on to school. In the afternoon, they see the reverse.

“There are options for parents and caregivers to get e-mail or SMS text alerts about bus stop arrival prediction, or they can download a smartphone app that will give them all of this information,” Westerman says.

ESI also offers rider attendance solutions that utilize bar code and radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.<p>With Synovia’s mobile data terminal installed in a bus, the driver can log students on and off as they enter and exit the bus.</p>

Synovia Corp.
Synovia Corp. offers two student tracking solutions that Vice President — Regional Sales Manager Brad Bishop says show in real time what students have entered and exited the bus, as well as when and where they’ve done so. Users can also compare planned versus actual ridership, which, Bishop adds, can help in managing routes.

The company’s RFID-based solution is an add-on to the company’s GPS offering. Students scan their RFID cards on a reader that’s installed in the front of the bus.

Synovia’s second student tracking option is an MDT-based solution. The terminal is installed in the vehicle, and it allows the driver to download the passenger list.

“On the screen, they have the list of passengers, and the driver logs the students on and off,” Bishop explains.

He says the RFID system is geared toward regular-education, high-capacity routes, while the MDT solution is geared toward special-needs ridership because the kids don’t have to use cards.

Bishop notes, however, that both systems will work for both types of ridership, and pupil transporters can use both systems within the same bus because they work in tandem.

“The terminal is a higher price point, but it has other capabilities, such as  pre- and post-trip inspection,” he adds.

<p>Versatrans Onscreen performs the student tracking, monitoring and reporting for Tyler Technologies’ new Versatrans Student Tracking solution. Users can see in real time when students board and exit the bus.</p>

Tyler Technologies Inc.
Tyler Technologies recently released Versatrans Student Tracking, which James Guzewich, president of Tyler’s Versatrans Solution, says provides dispatchers with real-time access to student scan activity.

Students scan an RFID card when they board and disembark the bus. Tyler chose this type of student tracking method because the technology is in use at many school districts for lunch point-of-sales systems and library systems, so students are familiar with the process of presenting their cards.

“The solution provides true accountability for school districts,” Guzewich says.

Because of the integration with Versatrans Routing & Planning, Tyler’s student tracking solution knows each student’s bus and bus stop assignment. The system will flag students as non-compliant if they scan at a different location or onto the wrong bus. Other benefits of Versatrans Student Tracking, according to Guzewich, include positive read confirmation and the ability to install a scanner at each bus entry point.

Versatrans Student Tracking comes bundled with Versatrans Onscreen for tracking, monitoring and reporting; Versatrans Routing & Planning for route planning and student management; and Tyler Telematic GPS units for transmitting data.  

Zonar Systems
ZPass is Zonar’s RFID-based student ridership tracking system. Chris Oliver, vice president of sales and marketing, says that once students swipe their card on a reader that’s installed in the bus, the time, date, location and who got on or off the bus is transmitted in real time to the district.

“They can click on the address and bring up the map view of that area, or you can do a satellite view,” Oliver adds, and says they can look at the information by route, bus or student.

William Brinton, chief marketing officer, says having data that indicate how many students are riding buses and for how long benefits operations because they can better determine how many buses are needed in their fleet, and how to operate more efficiently. ZPass, he adds, can help operations answer parent inquiries on their children’s whereabouts.

To further assist parents, Zonar offers ZPass+, an app for iPhones and Google Android phones. Parents and guardians can access information on when and where their children entered and exited the bus through their smartphones, or via the website

“We’ll soon be adding predictive arrival information to that app for the convenience of whoever might be meeting the child at their bus,” Brinton says.