STN Blogs Daily Routes Broadening the Scope of 'Transportation'
Broadening the Scope of 'Transportation' PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tim Ammon   
Thursday, 03 January 2013 10:50

One of the most interesting aspects of working with school districts across North America is the opportunity to see all of the innovation and creative thinking that is occurring in transportation departments. Broadening the perspective of transportation to focus on promoting access to school for all students, not just those transported on yellow buses, is a welcome and necessary innovation. Two transportation organizations exemplify these efforts to ensure safe, reliable and cost-effective access to school for all students.

Boulder Valley School District in Colorado has separated itself through its establishment of a designated organizational function focused on figuring out how the approximately 20,000 students who do not get transportation can get to school safely and efficiently. The creation of a TO school program office focuses on coordinating efforts such as Safe Routes to Schools, Walking School Buses, ride sharing, car pooling and bike-route development. This is an outstanding example of how a transportation organization can play a unique and highly assistive role in providing safe access to school. 

Another example is the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority (OSTA), the transportation management organization for schools in the metro-Ottawa, Ontario region. OSTA has taken a highly active role in creating alternatives for students not transported by its yellow bus services. While this effort was initially targeted at reducing the count and cost of student transported due to hazardous conditions, it has continued to evolve into a focus on maximizing the way students access educational programs. These aggressive efforts have created highly valuable community partnerships and elevated the stature of the student transportation organization.

Transportation departments are in a unique position to be the facilitators of access to school. The on-going budgetary constraints provide a strong financial impetus to investigate alternatives to the traditional transportation model. The logistical skills inherent in transportation staff are well suited to managing a multi-dimensional access to school problem. The geospatial information, particularly as it relates to road and walk path networks, that are contained in modern routing software provides a nearly ideal dataset from which to begin working on these types of projects. The confluence of these circumstances has opened a unique window of opportunity for transportation departments to increase the value of the services they provide.

Boulder Valley and OSTA, and many other organizations like them across North America, have recognized the operational and, more importantly, educational benefits of broadening the role of the transportation organization. Reducing transportation costs by minimizing hazardous student transportation and increasing access to educational programs by looking at all forms of transportation are all examples of how "transportation" departments can better support the fast evolving educational environment of the 21st century. An added benefit is that it broadens the types of jobs and responsibilities within the access to school organization, which will help the industry attract and retain talent that might not have otherwise been interested in "the bus business."

This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it is a consultant with Management Partnership Services, Inc., in Rockville, Md., and is a regular presenter at the STN EXPO Conference. He has extensive experience in system implementation and use and evaluating school bus routes and schedules and has analyzed all aspects of transportation and fleet management operations. Ammon also assists in the specification and implementation of transportation software applications.

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Last Updated on Monday, 05 August 2013 15:48