The New York City Department of Education has teamed up with ridesharing company Via to launch a new school bus routing, tracking, and communication platform, in addition to installing GPS systems on all of its school buses. File photo courtesy Katrina Falk

The New York City Department of Education has teamed up with ridesharing company Via to launch a new school bus routing, tracking, and communication platform, in addition to installing GPS systems on all of its school buses. File photo courtesy Katrina Falk

NEW YORK CITY — New York City announced on Wednesday its partnership with ridesharing company Via to launch a new school bus routing, tracking, and communication platform, in addition to installing GPS systems on all of its school buses.

The New York City Department of Education (DOE) has teamed up with the ridesharing company to introduce “Via for Schools,” a new platform that will give parents and students the ability to track, in real time via a mobile app, their bus’s whereabouts and receive frequent and reliable communications in the event of service changes, according to a news release from the DOE. The agency also confirmed that by the first day of the 2019-20 school year all the city’s school buses will be equipped with GPS systems from GeoTab.

“We’ll have GPS in every bus on the first day of school, and through our partnership with Via, we’ll soon have a state-of-the-art app for families to track buses and get real-time automatic updates,” said Richard A. Carranza, chancellor of the DOE. “We are grateful for the City Council's advocacy, leadership, and partnership. Safe and reliable transportation is critical for all families, and we’re committed to getting it right this year.”

As SBF previously reported in January, the New York City Council advanced several bills, also known as the Student Transportation Oversight Package (STOP), that aimed to increase oversight of various aspects of school bus service, including mandating GPS and an app for parents, as well as 15-days advance notification to families of their students’ bus routes for the upcoming school year.

The Via for Schools platform is designed to serve the city’s diverse student populations, including general education, special education, students in temporary housing, and others through one integrated school transportation system, according to a news release from Via. The ridesharing company said the system will utilize a flexible algorithm that allows for both stop-to-school and home-to-school pickups.

“We are delighted to partner with the New York City Department of Education to provide the first comprehensive, integrated, and automated school bus routing, tracking, and communication platform in the world,” said Daniel Ramot, co-founder and CEO of Via. “This new technology will not only provide greater transparency for parents and students, but also improve operational efficiency, putting New York City schools at the forefront of smart innovation.”

Currently, the DOE transports approximately 150,000 students on 9,000 bus routes to and from schools across the city, according to the agency. About two-thirds of those routes serve special-needs students and are equipped with GPS capabilities. Installations of the new Via GPS system for all the city's school buses will begin on a rolling basis this school year. The system, according to the DOE, will build on the agency's improvements to school transportation over the past year, such as the addition of the city’s new senior advisor to the chancellor on transportation, Kevin Moran, streamlining the fingerprinting and background check processes for drivers, as well as all investigations of bus driver and/or bus aide misconduct.

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