Detroit Public Schools to save $49 million, improve safety by outsourcing student transportation

February 23, 2010
Steven Wasko at 313-873-4542 or Jennifer Mrozowski at 313-873-8401

Detroit Public Schools is projected to improve the safety and efficiency of student transportation while saving $49 million over the next five years by fully outsourcing student transportation.
DPS, which employs 289 bus drivers and 56 other transportation employees, currently outsources 51 percent of its transportation to three private companies as well as DDOT buses.

“The decision to fully outsource transportation will dramatically improve transportation services for our children across the district, who now rely on a cobbled-together system of contracted companies, district-provided services and taxi cabs,” said Emergency Financial Manager Robert Bobb. “In addition, the district will realize millions of dollars in savings annually that will help reduce the strain on our budget.”

The winning bidder to provide the new service was Transportation Service Providers, a partnership of Detroit-based ABC Student Transportation and Cincinnati-based First Student. Transportation Service Providers was one of five firms the evaluation team reviewed.

First Student transports 4 million students every day with a fleet of more than 60,000 school buses and 68,000 drivers. ABC Transportation has 115 employees and services 81 – or 19 percent — of the district’s routes.
Through the new 5-year contract, students will benefit from safety enhancements, such as a computerized routing system that will significantly improve student pick-up. A total of 22,304 students now are bused.

Buses will have new GPS tracking systems through the Zonar EVIR System, which will provide mapping data and routing optimization to create the most efficient combination of stops and routes. Digital cameras will be on all buses so students can be monitored to improve safety, and a Child Check-Mate System on buses will ensure no children are left on buses at the end of a route.

All buses will feature an extension that reaches out from the front bumper when a bus is stopped. This safety feature is used to prevent bus drivers from not being able to see students crossing in front of them when the bus is stopped.
Parents will also have access to the same local call center to make transportation requests, and there will be significant upgrades to the scheduling center.

In addition to saving $8.1 million annually under the new contract, the district will realize a one-time savings of $5.1 million from the sale of the existing bus fleet, bringing the first-year savings and revenue to $13.2 million and the five-year savings to $45.3 million.

The district also will reduce long-term capital needs and maintenance costs for bus fleets and eliminate the need for an upcoming $3.5 million capital investment for transportation, bringing the total savings to $49 million. First Student will pay $5.1 million for the existing DPS transportation fleet.

The current Operators contracts will be honored through expiration on June 30. All current DPS employees will be offered the opportunity to transition to First Student staff, subject to First Student hiring rules and procedures. These procedures include background checks, physical exams and drug testing. First Student will also recognize the Teamsters. An extensive training program will be required for all employees.

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