The number of buses arriving late to school each morning has been cut dramatically over the past three months as Transportation Services continues to review and refine its operations and provide the best possible service to students.
Currently, the department averages about 30 to 40 late buses every day, which equates to as many as 5 percent of the district’s 878 routes. That’s a significant decrease from the average in August, when almost 20 percent of buses — roughly 140 to 160 each day — were late. The numbers are tracked manually.
“The percentage of late arrivals has been drastically reduced since the start of school,” Interim General Manager John Wilcots IV said Tuesday as he presented a department update to the HISD Board of Education. “I believe that our new technology is going to help us continue to make tremendous improvements. We are learning, and we have a lot of lessons learned.”
Wilcots credited the change to ongoing efforts to review routes and make necessary updates – collapsing, merging, or deleting them as necessary to increase efficiency.
Like surrounding districts and transportation organizations, HISD is facing a significant driver shortage, Wilcots said, noting that he needs another 130 drivers to be fully staffed.
HISD also is uniquely challenged by several additional factors, including the geographic span of the district, the intensity and unpredictability of Houston traffic, and the district’s magnet program, which provides magnet students with free transportation to the school of their choice. Magnet routes require complex routing along extended routes.
To continue improving service, the department is establishing route criteria, Wilcots said, pointing to his goal of having no route be longer than 90 minutes. Also underway is implementation of the student badge program and development of creative driver recruitment and retention plans focusing on compensation and child care.
Communicating with parents and schools remains a key focus, Wilcots told trustees. Transportation provides up-to-date information to the Business Operations Customer Care Call Center to better help callers.
Additionally, phone and text messages are sent to parents when a bus is going to be late, and route changes are distributed in the same manner on Wednesdays. To receive the notices, parents must provide up-to-date contact information to their child’s school. For text messages, parents must also text “yes” to 68453.