Transportation announces new, more comprehensive route planning process  

With an eye toward the 2019-2020 school year, Transportation Services is restructuring its annual planning process, building in time to verify all routes and notify parents well ahead of the start of school.

The team will begin actively planning and scheduling next year’s routes in April — significantly earlier than in previous years — allowing the department to have a rough plan by the end of the school year. Bus drivers then will be tasked with doing real-time test runs in July to validate routes and their feasibility.

With the new schedule, the department will be able to conduct multiple route verifications and still notify parents several weeks before the first day of school, giving them plenty of time to review.

“We’re starting so early and taking the lessons that we’ve learned to ensure a better rollout next year,” Transportation Services General Manager John Wilcots IV said.

The comprehensive planning process was announced Wednesday during Transportation Services’ Coffee and Conversations — a bi-monthly meeting that allows the department to share updates and progress with stakeholders and gather their feedback.

Wilcots briefed the group on the status of the Student Badge Program, designed to provide the district with real-time ridership data and notify parents when their children get on and off the bus.

“We’re still partnering with schools to encourage students to use their badge and understand that this has to become a way of life,” Wilcots said, noting that the program had not been fully embraced by students. “Badging is not going to go away.”

Wilcots said the district is continuing to look at a multi-purpose enterprise card that would serve as a student’s identification badge, as well as their bus badge, cafeteria card, and library card.

The transportation team also is working to establish criteria governing route and stop development across the district — guidelines that will be key as the team shifts its focus back to neighborhood stops, he said.

After sharing updates, Wilcots opened the floor for parents to share their concerns. A couple complained that their children are dropped off too early at school, before the doors open each day. The transportation team acknowledged the issue and noted that they were still in the process of manually verifying routes and stops.

“It just takes time,” said Tiffanie Travis-Williams, Transportation Services senior manager for routing and scheduling.

HISD Parent Rachel Lowe commended Transportation Services for their continued efforts to streamline operations and improve services.

“Since November, we haven’t had any issues so we’re very thankful,” Lowe said. “I’m excited to hear what you’re doing.”

Transportation Services Progress Indicators
September 2018 January 2019
901 Routes 848 Routes
120-150 late routes daily 25-30 late routes daily
130 drivers needed 50-75 drivers needed