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our app, issues are resolved quickly,” he explained. “We have analysts who receive the parent feedback and place it into an actionable and easily digestible format, before we send it to our main point of contact at the school. We highlight where changes need to be made in their GPS or routing system. How often the changes are received varies, it can be daily or weekly, which depends on the client.” SafeStop’s goal, then, is to


“dramatically reduce the number of phone calls to the transportation office and allow the school to focus on making changes to its schedule.” Gallagher said he feels that parental expectations should be managed, as GPS updates from providers are typ- ically generated much less frequently than what they experience with apps like Uber and Google Maps.


apps to provide customer satisfaction, we’ve found that a minimum of every 30 seconds provides a level of fidelity that parents are looking for,” he said. “If the app updates every five minutes, it’s not very useful. Parent apps need to be as real time as possible,” Mest stressed. Mest added that daily dispatch


information should also be current. “Is there a substitute bus on the route? Is the parent looking at their child’s bus and it isn’t moving because it’s in the shop?” he asked. “It’s common now with the shortage


of drivers to pair routes up, and the parents need to see that from where they’re sitting,” Mest noted. “Zonar can’t control that part of the experi- ence, but that is the second most sig- nificant factor in the quality of the parent app experience, and one that varies from provider to provider.”


“I’m very lucky in that I have a great superintendent and wonderful support. But you may only have one chance to get this past your school board, and you want


to do your homework.” CODY COX, BELLVILLE (TEXAS) ISD ON TESTING NEW TECHNOLOGY


“Our system allows for a seamless communication triangle between the parents, the transportation department and SafeStop,” he added. “If there is a serious delay, the transportation department can send out a push notification to all of the parents, or just parts of routes or certain bus stops that are affected. Additionally, we have a series of blogs that outline the steps needed before launching a school bus tracking app.” Kevin Mest, senior vice president of passenger services for Zonar, said user experience varies greatly, based on the speed of the updates and the ability of the transportation department to easily update the daily dispatch information. “For parent


Mest also pointed out that while


there is some cost to providing parents with these tools, it promotes safety and efficiency. “Transportation offices are not set up like a call center. It’s much easier if the parents can access information on their own, especially in bad weather,” he said. Bill Westerman, vice president of sales and marketing for Synovia Solutions, said planning system data for the Here Comes the Bus app is uploaded nightly and compared to the actual path taken by the bus via the GPS information. “On any given day, as much as 10 percent of the information changes, due to routine maintenance on the buses, driver changes and other factors,”


he explained. Synovia recommends that the planning system should be the assignment of record for what each bus does on a particular route for a particular group of students. Westerman said there are different ways to make changes, such as the dispatcher reassigning buses one at a time. However, starting this fall, Here Comes the Bus will handle batch changes, Westerman said. Tese es- pecially fit the need of larger districts, which can require one hundred or more changes a day. “Another method is a mobile app, which is handy for a manager or mechanic to have out in the parking lot,” he said. “For instance, if a bus won’t start, another bus can be put on that route via the smart phone. Drivers can use a tablet to confirm their bus route and assignment, which then gets uploaded into the software automatically, and parents can see these bus changes on their app. Te tablet also can provide turn-by-turn directions for the driver. Synovia integrates with all of the existing routing programs on the market today,” Westerman added. Speaking of parent communica-


tions, Synovia is taking its information straight to local PTA groups. Takeem Morgan, the company’s digital strategy manager, has been speaking in many communities around the country. “I’m really excited to be able to share Here Comes Te Bus with parents and [to] educate them on our technology,” he said. “First, I explain that this technol- ogy exists, then how it works, and how Here Comes Te Bus allows transportation to focus on more important issues than answering routing questions over the phone. Some schools that have our system don’t have a robust program in place to help parents understand the technology, and we are helping with that,” Westerman noted. With Tyler Technologies, data


accuracy is maintained by comparing www.stnonline.com 57


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