Buses, vans and other transportation vehicles are in high demand on school campuses. On top of the everyday transportation of students, these vehicles transport children and staff on field trips; those who participate in extracurricular activities, such as athletics; and deliver students to work sites. These extra demands often cause transportation departments to reconfigure their routes and update their buses on a continual basis.

Post-secondary institutions, on the other hand, are being forced to become more creative in finding ways to alleviate transportation concerns. These vehicles often are used to remedy overcrowded parking lots and traffic congestion, offering carpools, vanpools, shuttles and bus transportation. While these transportation issues are not new to institutions, the solutions are.

Routing advances

Transportation services at Portland Public Schools in Portland, Maine, currently transport more than 3,000 students to and from school per day on 36 buses. Operating on more than 200 daily schedules, situations could get complicated and children could get left behind. The transportation department has found a way to make things more efficient.

When determining what is the best approach to managing transportation operations and improving existing methods, there are several options that are beneficial in improving the system. In the Portland school district, routing software helps to manage schedules, track students, map locations and build routes. Kevin Mallory, director of transportation for the district, says that the guesswork has been eliminated, and now they know who is riding each and every bus.

“For the last six years we have been using routing software and it has improved our operations tremendously,” says Mallory. “Our routes are more structured and more efficient.”

Not only is the transporting of students running more smoothly, but also the maintenance of the schools' vehicles has improved. Portland implemented an in-house maintenance program developed by the assistant director of transportation, Kevin Whittemore.

“We can track our maintenance procedures, such as when we do preventive-maintenance repairs, when parts are replaced and how much we spend,” says Mallory.

Switching over

Other school systems are taking a different approach to improving maintenance operations. The Cleveland City Schools (CCS), Cleveland, Tenn., is adopting a more efficient type of vehicle that opens up the possibility for more reliable service.

Annually, the 23 CCS buses log more than 198,000 miles and deliver an average of 1,850 students who live in the school district boundaries per day. The 1,850 students riding on the CCS buses represent 42.5 percent of the students in the district. CCS is in the process of switching over from gasoline-powered buses to diesel-fueled buses.

“Diesel engines last longer and they are more durable and stable to run,” says Tommy Green, director of maintenance and supervisor of transportation. “The initial cost is higher for diesel engines, but it is worth the cost in the long run.”

Alternative methods

On the university scene, students are far more likely to drive than ride a school bus, or even walk or bike to class. On most campuses, this presents a problem — too many students and faculty members driving to campus and not enough parking spaces.

At Boise State University (BSU), Boise, Idaho, where more than 17,000 students are enrolled and only 1,000 students live on campus, attempting to find a parking space on campus is a challenge.

“We operate at about 95 to 96 percent capacity during our peak hours,” says Bob Seibolt, director of campus safety at BSU. “There is some parking near campus, but the city is beginning to put time zones in this area to discourage students from parking there.”

To make more parking available, Brady Parking Structure phase one has recently been built on the BSU campus. Phase two of the structure should add around 400 more spaces in order to contain parking issues until 2004, at which time projections indicate the need for more parking spaces.

According to Seibolt, there are two factors that raise concern for transportation and parking. There are only 6,000 parking spaces on campus, and with 17,000 students, 3,000 faculty and staff members, and more than a million visitors annually, parking lots are crowded and congested. Vehicles also produce toxins that cause concern for the environment.

In 1991, BSU implemented a program to promote the use of carpooling, vanpooling, shuttles and buses. Introduced as alternatives to driving, Seibolt says that it is helping to alleviate some traffic and transportation problems, but more is needed.

“It is a constant struggle to get students to use these alternatives,” says Seibolt.

Other services BSU offers include vanpooling that allows students to travel to the surrounding cities of Boise. The campus safety office offers transi-checks that are available to new riders and are worth $20 off per month for the first three consecutive monthly fares on any of the alternative transportation services.

“We are in our third year using a rewards program for those who use any form of alternative transportation to commute to campus,” says Seibolt. “Students who use our transportation methods are eligible to be in the monthly drawing for prizes donated by local businesses.”

Boise Urban Stages (BUS) has been providing services to BSU for six years. During the fall and spring semesters, students, faculty and staff can board the BUS free of charge by presenting their BSU student identification card. The BUS runs Monday through Saturday and takes people to campus, downtown, the mall or other areas serviced by the BUS. Buses are owned and operated by the city and are contracted out by the university. Bike racks are provided on the bus for those riders who choose to bike.

Hale, assistant editor, can be reached at ohale@primediabusiness.com.

QUOTABLE

Tommy Green

Director of Maintenance and Supervisor of Transportation, Cleveland City Schools, Tenn.

“Diesel engines last longer and they are more durable and stable to run. The initial cost is higher for diesel engines, but it is worth the cost in the long run.”

Kevin Mallory

Director of Transportation, Portland Public Schools, Portland, Maine.

“For the last six years we have been using routing software and it has improved our operations tremendously. Our routes are more structured and more efficient.”

Bob Seibolt

Director of Campus Safety, Boise State University, Boise, Idaho.

“We operate at about 95 to 96 percent capacity during our peak hours. There is some parking around campus, but the city is beginning to put time zones in this area.”