Boston Struggles With School Bus Delays, No-Shows

Nicole Schlosser
Posted on September 4, 2018

BOSTON — Many school buses here had delayed arrival times or were no-shows last week as some schools opened early while the drivers union negotiates a new contract.

Boston Public Schools buses ran late or had not shown up to pick up students last Tuesday through Thursday for schools that started early — mostly independent charter schools, according to Boston Globe.

There are concerns that the problem could worsen as school officially starts on Thursday, the newspaper reports.

The district had struggled with an unexpected number of driver absences, and bus drivers were negotiating with Transdev, the district’s transportation contractor, to replace an agreement that was set to expire on Friday, according to Boston Globe.

The bus drivers union had raised the possibility of a walkout in June, the newspaper reports, when it unanimously voted to authorize a strike as its contract was set to expire, but a two-month extension was worked out. Whether the drivers’ absences last week were connected to labor issues or are coincidental was unclear as of last week. Mayor Martin Walsh said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in which he expressed frustrations over the problem and apologized to families, students, and schools, that he didn't think the issues were related, and that he plans to meet with the union soon, according to the newspaper.

The union blamed the problems that occurred last week on the contractor and Boston Public Schools’ use of an algorithm designed by MIT students and professors to consolidate bus routes. In a flyer released on Monday, the union claimed that Transdev didn’t hire a sufficient number of drivers over the summer, didn't maintain a pool of replacement drivers or train new drivers, and left 45 routes uncovered.

According to another flyer from Aug. 27, the bus drivers union is seeking a cost-of-living increase, affordable health care, disability coverage, and trained bus monitors for every bus, and is opposing bargaining proposals that include reducing allotted time for daily bus inspections and subcontracting.

The union and the contractor were expected to meet again on Tuesday, according to Boston Globe.  

The newspaper also reports that another issue driving the school district's transportation problems is the abrupt departure of its transportation director, John Roderick, who had previously worked for Transdev. The district told the newspaper that Roderick, who was hired earlier this year, left Aug. 24 and moved to New York City. Meanwhile, Delavern Stanislaus, the transportation department's customer service manager, is acting as interim director.

Related Topics: driver shortage, Massachusetts, routing, school start, unions

Nicole Schlosser Executive Editor
Comments ( 2 )
  • Denis Gallagher

     | about 11 months ago

    This is not surprising at all for Boston Public Schools. The arrangements for busing there have been a disaster for many years. There is no coordinated effort to have a safe, efficient operation. The District owns the vehicles, they contract out to a company that has very little actual school bus experience and operations because they were low bid and have a fancy presentation. Plus the facilities are owned by another third party all together. They used MIT students for routing of the children and buses. Question ? Does MIT have a second one of these ? Answer is NO. But it was cheaper. Drivers and monitors are paid full time with high wages and complete benefits and that has not solved the issue. This is a major cluster mess. The interest here are not aligned as the Union has held the various district contractors hostage for many years. The city and district leadership for these issues left a long time ago, the contract is trying to manage a situation that is way over their head and so there is NO good solution in sight.

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