HONOLULU — The Hawaii State Department of Education (DOE) has reached the final phase of its transportation reform initiative with the awarding of new school bus contracts on Maui and Kauai.
On Maui, Robert's Hawaii School Bus will service the Kekaulike complex, and Ground Transport Inc. will provide transportation for the Baldwin, Maui, and Lahainaluna complexes. On Kauai, Akita Enterprises will service the Kapaa and Kauai complexes, while Yamaguchi Bus Service will serve the Waimea complex.
All Hawaii DOE schools are rolled into complexes, each of which is composed of a high school and the elementary and middle schools that feed into it.
The new contracts, which are for the 2017-18 school year, culminate the last of three stages of reform efforts that began in 2013 as a pilot project in central Oahu. According to the Hawaii DOE, the Get on Board initiative has improved service by streamlining processes and upgrading technology while reducing overall transportation costs by more than $13 million annually.
"The success of our Get on Board efforts can be attributed to the improved partnerships we developed with our vendors, and their willingness to work with us as we look for ways to make our student transportation services more efficient," state Superintendent Kathryn Matayoshi said. "The department is also taking advantage of advances in technology to improve accountability and promote transparency."
In June 2012, the Hawaii DOE eliminated 100 bus routes due to rising costs and a loss of funding. The Get on Board initiative was launched to address these issues. The pilot portion restored service to around 350 students at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year.
As part of the initiative, legislation was passed that gave the DOE more flexibility in how school bus contracts are awarded.
Another component of Get on Board is the implementation of technology designed to enhance safety and efficiency. The technology platform now includes computerized routing software, automated route and stop assignments, GPS mapping and tracking, video cameras on all school buses, and online information portals.
"Our department transports more than 40,000 students per day statewide, and the safety of our passengers is a top priority,” Assistant Superintendent Dann Carlson said. “The upgraded technology is just another tool we can use to create a secure environment on our buses.”