ORLANDO, Fla. — Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) has taken numerous steps to make its transportation operation — one of the larger district-owned fleets in the nation — more efficient, resulting in a savings of more than $6.5 million.
The cost-cutting actions, many of which were recommended in an audit by consulting firm TransPar Group, ranged from routing changes to reducing the number of surplus buses. The cost savings of $6,508,037 was for the 2010-11 fiscal year, out of a total budget of $59,224,673.
Senior Director of Transportation Jim Beekman, who came to OCPS in October 2010, told SBF that the district had initially made significant bell schedule adjustments, which “saved money but caused some major parental objections. The audit was brought in to look for other ways to save transportation costs.”
In one component of the new plan, OCPS consolidated bus routes and stops throughout the district and made map improvements for more efficient routing. As a result, 44 routes were cut from the previous year, for a cost savings of $1,902,747.
Beekman, who has worked in student transportation since 1983, said that OCPS ended the 2010-11 school year with 931 routes and has brought the total down further to 911 this school year.
The routing reductions also led to some staff restructuring to eliminate redundancy. Two routing positions and two area manager positions were cut, for a savings of $178,411.
In another key move, the district decreased the number of spare buses needed to support its daily service requirement. A total of 280 buses were sold at auction, generating one-time revenue of $1,762,150.
For the 2011-12 fiscal year, OCPS’ spare bus ratio is down to 18 percent, and additional reductions will be considered in the future.
The district’s reduced fleet size eliminated the need to fill mechanic positions that were vacant. Three positions were cut, for a savings of $90,000.
Beekman said that OCPS also removed 71 late-model buses, and radio relief drivers (full-time, permanent substitutes) were strategically placed at compounds throughout the district. The radio relief drivers use equipment that was already assigned to routes to cover absenteeism. These changes reduced operating costs for a savings of $3,728,842 in 2010-11.
In addition to cutting costs, OCPS made efforts that enhanced its service. For example, expanding the use of automated vehicle location and GPS improved routing efficiencies and reduced average daily ride time by about 11 percent. Daily ride time was 84 minutes in 2010-11, down from 94 minutes 2009-10.
Beekman noted that cost reductions were tailored to avoid negatively impacting service for the district’s more than 73,000 daily passengers. The savings are continuing.
“We have reorganized the operations structure since October 2010,” Beekman said, “and we will realize another $2.5 million in savings this year. A large portion of that is in routing efficiencies.”