Transportation Services is updating the SafeStop bus tracking app to reflect temporary changes made to bus routes that do not yet have a permanent driver assigned due to an ongoing driver shortage.
Of the department’s 828 routes, about 10 percent — or 87 routes — do not have permanent drivers due to the shortage, which is impacting transportation organizations across the region.
As a result, stops on these open routes were temporarily reassigned to nearby staffed routes to ensure all students have safe and reliable transportation to and from school. This has caused some staffed routes to run longer than originally expected.
The district has designated five “Staff Development Days” for the 2019-2020 school year to be utilized for professional development at the school level. As a result, schools will release students early on those days throughout the school year.
On the following dates outlined below, elementary schools will be dismissed at noon, and middle and high schools will be dismissed at 1:10 p.m.
HISD Transportation Services will be adjusting bus schedules to ensure students are picked up at the early dismissal times, which will result in earlier delivery times to bus stops.
Transportation Services is temporarily halting the acceptance of route and stop change requests as the department works to process an abundance of new requests for bus service submitted after the start of the new school year.
This measure allows the department to focus on ensuring all new requests for service are processed and accompanying students are assigned to routes. Once that work is complete, the department will resume review of route and stop change requests.
Alternate Stop Request Forms — required when requesting a bus stop or route change — will not be accepted during this time. Additionally, the Alternate Stop Request Form option in the Let’s Talk! online communication platform is being temporarily disabled.
Transportation Services is announcing its first round of bus route updates on Thursday. The changes will impact 445 routes with families being notified via SchoolMessenger.
These adjustments result from the department’s continued focus to increase route efficiency, as well as its efforts to process new requests for bus service and route and stop changes. Changes to routes are not uncommon at the start of the school year and mostly involve minor adjustments to stop times.
This year, Transportation Services will be making route update announcements on Thursdays, as needed, with changes to take effect the following Monday. The announcements distributed Thursday will take effect immediately after Labor Day on Tuesday, Sept. 3.
Parents of students riding HISD buses now have two new tools designed to ensure better bus service for students and better customer service for parents with transportation-related questions and concerns.
Beginning this school year, Transportation Services is launching the bus tracking app SafeStop and Let’s Talk!, an easy-to-use, online program that aims to streamline communication between Transportation Services and parents and school staff.
“We want to provide an easy-to-use service that will help parents who utilize our service,” Transportation Services General Manager John Wilcots IV said. “Increased effectiveness in our operations and our customer service continues to be our main goal for Transportation Services this year.”
Transportation Services is continuing its recruiting efforts as the school year comes to an end, with the department hosting four job fairs this summer to hire new bus drivers.
The district has been working this past year to address a bus driver shortage by adding more drivers to its roster. The job fairs will continue through June and July.
“We want people who are reliable and hardworking,” Transportation Services General Manager John Wilcots IV said. “My goal is to have one bus driver for every route as we head into next year.”
Transportation Services has completed more than half of
school bus route scheduling for next year, department leadership announced Tuesday
during the department’s Coffee & Conversations.
Transportation Services General Manager John Wilcots IV
said the department got a head start on planning for the upcoming school year
and now has 60 percent of routing and scheduling for the 2019-2020 school year
Services will stop making changes and updates to existing routes at the end of
this month as the department shifts it focus to planning for the 2019-2020
Students with new
transportation requests submitted after the cut-off date will be assigned to
existing routes and stops.
“We began this school
year with several challenges. Since that time, we’ve worked hard to address the
concerns of parents and make changes as necessary,” Transportation Services
General Manager John Wilcots IV said.
Transportation Services is working to address its driver
shortage by offering free training for individuals who wish to obtain a
Commercial Driver’s License.
The class for the license, also known as a CDL, is held Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Northwest Terminal (6351 Pinemont Drive) and is open to anyone interested in becoming an HISD bus driver until the start of the 2019-2020 school year.
With planning already underway for the upcoming school year, Transportation Services is employing a proactive approach to address issues involving routing and scheduling.
General Manager John Wilcots IV said the department will stop making routing changes for the current school year on April 1. This will allow the department to begin planning for routes for next year — well in advance of the first day of the 2019-2020 school year.
“As we plan the bus routing for next school year, we want to make sure our students are not walking long distances and that they don’t have long wait times to board our buses,” Wilcots said. “The work that we will begin on April 1 is critical to ensuring the school year gets off to a smoother start next year.”