Safer, More Efficient Bus Routes With Cutting-Edge Tech

October 12, 2022 by Peter Friesen

Safer, More Efficient Bus Routes With Cutting-Edge Tech

Leading the way in adopting an innovative technology can be difficult in the best of times, but Mount Airy City Schools was determined to bring children safely back to school in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. District leaders were set on providing the safest possible environment for kids, in the best possible learning environment — in person with their peers and teachers. The sticking point turned out to be transportation.

Problem-Solving With New Technology

Mount Airy was working with a legacy transportation solution that required manual data entry into an outdated system, which caused delays and inefficiencies. Especially problematic when contending with a new disease was the system’s lack of tracking to support their need for contact tracing. For a pilot program, they selected Tyler Technologies’ Student Transportation software suite and Tyler Drive on-board tablets, which offered automatic route planning, digital seating assignments, cloud storage services, and many other advances that would allow Mount Airy to transport children to and from school safely.

“The pilot is bringing us into the 21st century, and really, ready for the 22nd century,” Mount Airy City Schools Superintendent Kim Morrison says. “All of a sudden our bus drivers, who’ve been driving for 30 years, were very excited.”

Tyler Drive tablets give bus drivers turn-by-turn navigation and audio directions, as well as digital seating assignments with up-to-the-minute accuracy of which children should be on the bus and where they should be dropped off.

The seating assignments allowed for more efficient student tracking, not just to make sure students got home safely, but to also give administrators insight into who was seated together for contact tracing.

“Anybody that works in student transportation knows that's like gold,” Morrison says of the digital seating charts. “You don't have that even on most tablets and most software.”

Safety and Efficiency Prioritized

Bus routes are far easier to plan in the new solution, which can intake every drop-off point and provide multiple options with maximum efficiency and safety as a priority. If a parent requests a change to their child’s drop off location, it used to take a day or two for that change to be reflected in Mount Airy’s previous system. Now it is quickly updated on the on-bus tablet.

Administrators and parents tout the increased student safety that Tyler Drive offers as well. Students scan their ID cards when they board, and the driver reviews and approves each entry. If there’s an incident, or a student misses their stop, there’s an accurate record of which bus a student boarded, and when.

“This technology has allowed us to be more efficient, get students home safer and more quickly, and have less buses on the road, which as a superintendent, is a cost savings for us,” Morrison says.

Proving Value for Any School District

Mount Airy led the pilot program in North Carolina, in part to demonstrate the possibility of a safe return to in-person learning and to show that Tyler's Student Transportation solution and Tyler Drive tablets could work for any other school district in the state, large or small. Twenty-four more districts adopted the solution, largely because of the easy scalability of Student Transportation, from a rural district with long routes and fewer students, to an urban district where maximum efficiency in route-planning is key. Mount Airy recently won a Tyler Excellence Award for their role in bringing students back to school safely.

“We want to be innovators and we want to solve problems for children that then impacts more students than just ours,” Morrison says. “We feel all the students in our community, regardless of where they attend, and all the students in our state deserve to come to school safely, quickly, and make sure that they have a good experience.”

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