Although the state of Maine provides school transportation departments with free student routing software, some school districts decide to seek alternatives. Adam Mayo, director of transportation for Maine School Administrative District No. 75 (MSAD 75), worked with this software for three years before looking into other solutions.
“It was not easy to learn, and it wasn’t really user-friendly,” he says.
While the software was available for free, Mayo found it created inefficiencies with the department’s operations. For example, the routing feature was incompatible with the student software used by the department.
“After August, we were basically [inputting] every student’s [information] in by hand,” he says.
While researching his options for an alternative in 2015, Mayo attended a trade show and met representatives from Tyler Technologies, which demonstrated its Traversa software.
Traversa is an all-in-one student transportation solution, designed to give school bus officials, maintenance crews, and fleet managers the tools to run operations in a single program. Those tools include routing, mapping, vehicle maintenance, planning, and messaging. For Mayo, the most appealing feature of Traversa is its ease of use.
“I had a route done with about 10 stops in about five minutes,” he says. “With students added, in the old software that would’ve taken probably about an hour.”
Mayo also highlighted the program’s more modern user interface, with simpler, easier-to-navigate menus, compared to the initial software used by MSAD 75. Traversa’s web-based design and use of cloud hosting also allows users to access features from the field, without the need for proprietary hardware.
The capability to customize times at stops has also benefited MSAD 75’s bus operations. Through the old software, adding a student to the program would reset all the previous stop times, Mayo says.
One feature that surprised Mayo in its usefulness was the ability to digitize maintenance records. Where the department’s maintenance work was initially done entirely on paper, Traversa allows work orders to appear onscreen at a dedicated work station. Mayo says MSAD 75’s maintenance crew adapted quickly to the new system.
“The mechanics, who I thought would be [leery] of it after changing, absolutely loved the new program,” Mayo says. “We’ve really been able to hone in on that piece of Traversa and keep all our records electronically, instead of the old file cabinet system, and we can put so much into it.”
Investing in Efficiency
Though Mayo says Traversa has improved the performance of MSAD 75’s transportation department across the board, one of the challenges was securing funding to purchase software for the 46-bus fleet.
“I never imagined the school board would approve a large purchase like this, where we would have to pay a certain fee every year when we were getting everything for free before, especially in a time where we’re cutting down budgets,” Mayo says.
To help the department get approval for funding, Tyler Technologies gave a presentation to MSAD 75’s superintendent and business manager. Mayo pitched the program based on the number of hours he spent at the time working with the free software, compared to Traversa’s ease-of-use, as well as resources saved on training with an inefficient system. Within a year, the department received the funding, and has worked with Traversa since.
Mayo recommends that other districts looking into funding student transportation software do ample research on various products competing in the market. Breaking down which elements of the current system are and are not working can help in searching for the software that’s the right fit for a given school district.
Mayo also suggests consulting experts in other departments to ensure all of the district’s needs are met, and that a new system is a worthwhile investment in the long term.
“That’s why I brought in the IT folks to make sure the IT was going to work. I brought in the business manager to make sure that piece is going to work. I brought in the superintendent to make sure that when we presented to the school board ... it would be OK,” he says. “It’s to bring in those key players also, not to make the sole decision on it.”
While Traversa provides multiple features in its base package, some programs sell features piecemeal, Mayo says, so feature density is also worth considering in terms of budget and long-term value.
Looking toward the future, Mayo says the department is considering purchasing additional Traversa components, such as a trip tracker, parent app, GPS system, and Tyler Drive, which is a console-mounted tablet for school buses.
From maintenance reports to routing to student records, MSAD 75’s transportation department has digitally migrated its work into Tyler Technologies’ system.
“It’s a great group of people and a beautiful program,” Mayo says. “We’re very happy, and it’s really helped us.”