Inside: Transportation

NYC BRINGS BACK SOME BUS ROUTES

The New York City school system has reinstated 17 bus routes after an effort to streamline its transportation operation led to numerous parent complaints about students being left with no way to get to and from school.

The school system, the nation's largest, decided earlier this year to eliminate some routes and consolidate others after it found that some students who were eligible for the system's yellow school bus service did not want it. The changes were expected to save $12 million. Restoring the 17 routes is expected to wipe out about $2 million of the anticipated savings.

Before reinstating the routes, the city received thousands of complaints about disrupting the schedules in the middle of winter. Some students were left waiting in the cold at what used to be their bus stops.

“Thousands of parents across the city have struggled to find ways to get their children to and from school safely on the heels of the Department of Education's ill-conceived plan to reorganize school bus routes in the middle of winter,” says Betsy Gotbaum, New York City's Public Advocate.

Gotbaum has proposed legislation to prevent the city from making major changes to school bus routes in the middle of the school year.

NO CELL PHONES FOR BUS DRIVERS?

The American School Bus Council wants to place strict limits on the use of cell phones by school bus drivers.

The council, which represents public and private transportation providers, school bus manufacturers and state officials responsible for pupil transportation, says that use of cell phones or other portable electronic devices — even those that are hands-free — should be prohibited. The council also recommends that drivers should not use cell phones while supervising the loading and unloading of students.

Donald Tudor, co-director of the Council and director of transportation for the South Carolina Department of Education, says the recommendations go beyond the ones proposed by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

The NTSB, after investigating a 2004 bus accident in Virginia that involved a driver who had been talking on a cell phone, recommended last year that federal and state governments prohibit motor coach and school bus drivers from using cell phones while driving those vehicles, except in emergencies.

LARGEST U.S. SCHOOL BUS OPERATOR PURCHASED

FirstGroup, the United Kingdom's largest surface transportation company, has announced plans to purchase Laidlaw International, the largest school bus operator in North America.

FirstGroup will pay $2.8 billion in cash and assume $800 million in debt to acquire Laidlaw, which includes not only school bus operations, but also Greyhound Lines.

If the deal is completed, the British company will combine First Student, the nation's second-largest school bus operator, with Laidlaw, the nation's largest.

Laidlaw has contracts with more than 1,000 school districts in the United States and Canada. It has roughly 450 operating locations, and its fleet of about 41,000 buses provides transportation for approximately 2 million students each school day.

The new company will operate about 63,000 school buses in North America.

SCHOOL BUSES IN NORTH AMERICA
Total 500,000
Operated by school district authorities 350,000
Operated by private contractors 150,000
Operated under private contracts that will be held by FirstGroup after purchase of Laidlaw 63,000
Source: FirstGroup
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