Transportation Services is conducting a comprehensive review of bus ridership at schools with high transportation eligibility to identify opportunities for route consolidation and increased efficiency.
The review is focused on 15 schools with low ridership, despite having a high volume of students who are eligible for transportation and have been assigned routes.
Transportation Services General Manager John Wilcots IV explained that requests for transportation are often at their highest at the start of the school year. Once a request is made and the student is found to be eligible, the department is required to assign that student to a route and stop — even if they end up choosing not to ride the bus.
“When we create stops for each student requesting transportation, this means more routes and more time spent executing those routes,” Wilcots said. “If those routes are not utilized, it results in routes with a small number of students and less efficiency.”
Before any routes are consolidated or eliminated, Transportation Services staff will communicate with school officials, parents, and bus drivers to confirm that bus service is not needed. Once that determination is made, the school will be asked to formally withdraw the request from the system, allowing the department to delete the unused stop.
“This review will help us to identify inefficiencies in routing,” Wilcots said. “By consolidating routes with low ridership and eliminating routes with no riders, we can better utilize our manpower to cover existing routes.”
The goal is to help reduce the number of new bus drivers needed to operate routes, which helps the department as they face a critical bus driver shortage. Currently, the department has 817 bus routes. Wilcots said his goal is to end the school year with about 770 routes.
The reviews also will be used to better project routes for the 2020-2021 school year.
Reviews at six schools — Garden Oaks Montessori, T.H. Rogers School, Durham and Stevens elementary schools, and Tanglewood and Meyerland Middle Schools — are complete. Reviews at nine remaining schools should be completed by the end of the year.