ANOKA, Minn. — The Anoka-Hennepin School District has taken steps to increase its transportation efficiency in recent years, and the efforts have paid off.
The Anoka-Hennepin transportation department’s mission is to provide safe, reliable and efficient transportation services so that students are ready to learn when they arrive at school.
“We have the largest student population in the state of Minnesota,” Transportation Director Keith Paulson said, “and we are always looking for opportunities to improve the efficiency of our busing services, while continuing to provide safe and reliable transportation to our students.”
Three years ago, Anoka-Hennepin increased the walking distances from homes to bus stops for all grade levels. Because of this, the district was able to reduce the number of buses it uses by 10 and achieve a $500,000 annual savings. Having fewer buses also helped the district maximize the use of travel time for its remaining buses.
“We also increased our efficiency by striving to fill our buses to capacity,” Paulson said. “Over the last three years, we tracked the number of students actually riding the bus, compared to the number of students scheduled to ride.”
In the spring of 2011, Anoka-Hennepin began a route-sequencing schedule, knowing that not all students ride the bus. The district used the percentage of actual riders to help come closer to its maximum busloads (69 for elementary, 64 for middle school and 54 for high school).
“To ensure we had enough space to transport our 35,000 students during the first week of the 2011-12 school year, we deployed 10 extra buses for a period of one week to help deal with any overloads and/or scheduling issues,” Paulson said. “Once we were able to find and address those issues, the extra buses were discontinued.”
The result of the initiative was an overall increase of about 10% actual ridership per bus. Along with the reduction of 10 regular-education bus routes, which saved about $500,000, the district avoided paying for the excess fuel cost (above $2.50 per gallon) for the buses that were no longer in service.
“In these tough economic times, school districts are cutting costs in an effort to preserve quality education for students,” Paulson said. “As transportation professionals, it is our duty to proactively search for opportunities to be efficient while providing safe, reliable services.”