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Tracking apps target user expectations of knowing when the school bus will arrive and where it is in real time, and how it can help steamline operations Written by Mark Rowh


T


echnology may not be the answer to every challenge in school transportation, but the latest tracking apps offer the po- tential to meet and solve several of them.


From helping managers stay on top of their fleet, to keeping parents informed of arrival and departure times, these apps are seeing increased use nationwide. If nothing else, they provide a ready vehicle


for meeting expectations of today’s hands-on, data-starved, control-focused parents. “As mobility and transparency become


the norm for everything from buying movie tickets to government watchdog groups, it’s no surprise that parents expect the same level of service and real-time information from their school bus,” said Ted Thien, vice president and general manager of the student transportation solutions group for Tyler Technologies. Tyler offers Versatrans and Traversa routing and fleet management software, along with the My Stop app. Now available from a number of providers, the


variety of tracking apps that are currently on the market give school planners plenty of choices. And since the apps are based on the mobile technology that consumers are already familiar with, adoption by parents and other users can be a relatively easy process. A second advantage may be the positive


public relations value. When school districts announce adoption of the technology and once it’s implemented, they are likely to be


32 School Transportation News • JANUARY 2020


seen as stepping up their level of responsive- ness to the interests of parents. That’s been the result for Wichita Public Schools in Kansas, where buses are using the FirstView mobile app from First Student. In spring 2018, the district pilot tested its use on 10 percent of bus runs, and then it slowly rolled out the technology to the nearly 100 schools and 16,000 students that were being transported by school buses. Lisa Riveros, Wichita’s director of transporta-


tion, said she has been impressed with how easy the app is for parents to access and use. “Parents need very little instruction to go to an app store, download it, then create an account and add their student,” she explained. “They all intuitively know how to do it.” Riveros reported that the app has also been well-received by drivers and others in the field. Before initiating its use, she held meetings with drivers and bus monitors. She followed-up with training sessions and dis- cussions between routes. “I expected some reservations from those on the bus, but I was happy to learn that they all thought it was great,” she said. “It was met with pure positivity and they still feel that way.”


Operational Impact While apps from the various providers offer a


variety of features, the most popular use seems to be by parents who want to determine when to have their children at a stop for pick-up, and when to be at the stop to meet them after school.


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