FORT MYERS, Fla. — Lee County Public Schools (LCPS) retained TransPar Group to conduct a Pupil Transportation Study and the results are now available.
Implementing the study's recommended changes could save the district about $10 million, The News-Press reports. Savings could come from adjusting start times, reducing the number of spare buses and shifting special-needs students to taxis or dial-a-ride services when they are the only student transported on a school bus.
Findings and recommendations contained in the study include:
• The LCPS transportation system costs per bus is only 3 percent higher than the Florida average and its cost per student is consistent with choice programs [TransPar] encountered elsewhere;
• The current school bell time structure facilitates long bus ride times (adopting an alternative school bell time structure could reduce ride times but might not substantially reduce costs);
• The utilization rate of maintenance facilities is superior;
• There may be too many buses in reserve/spare buses; they recommend establishing a 10 percent "spare factor" and selling off any excess buses to recoup funds;
• The accident rate, currently at .56 accidents per 100,000 miles, is exceptional (better than the national average) and reflective of a solid training program and dedicated driver staff.
One area that garnered extensive attention in the study is the bell time transportation tiers. TransPar believes modifying the district's bell times and moving to a three-tier system will facilitate shorter bus rides and drive up the Average Bus Occupancy.
In addition, TransPar recommends curtailing courtesy bus ridership, working to eliminate "zero rider stops," consolidating stops and routes or both, and moving toward sequential routes — all of which the company believes would aid in shortening bus routes and ride times while increasing efficiency.
Earlier this year, TransPar provided the district with preliminary suggested actions concerning the aforementioned topics, which staff considered as they began preparing for the current school year.
According to a statement posted on the LCPS Website, officials said time is needed to review all the findings and recommendations in order to determine if they can be implemented in the least disruptive fashion possible. TransPar indicates as much in the study and recommends a thorough analysis and thoughtful review of the entire transportation system prior to making changes.
Many of the points made by TransPar concern procedures that the district formerly implemented to benefit students and families (i.e., courtesy bus ridership, adding bus stops to routes for convenience, etc.), which is why care must be taken before rushing to implement any changes, officials said.
TransPar also cautions that a balance should be maintained between safety, performance and efficiency. Keeping that in mind, staff is hopeful that the district will be able to incorporate many of the recommendations into the transportation department in the future, which will increase efficiency and reduce costs, according to the statement.
To read the TransPar study, click here.