In the weeks before the start of the 2019-2020 academic year, the department of transportation of Miami-Dade County Public Schools has been testing new features to increase the safety and reliability of their bus fleet.
Transportation employees demonstrated on Friday morning a pilot GPS tracking program that provides real-time locations, routes, and estimated time of arrival for all county school buses. The data is also shared with county police.
“The mystery as to when the school bus will arrive will be gone,” said Miami-Dade Public Schools superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who spoke at a demonstration held at the Southwest Transportation Center in Kendal. “I think it’s a relief for the parents to know that in real time, all school buses are being tracked not only by school officials but also by the police department.”
“When I rode the bus, it wasn’t this cool,” Carvalho said.
Starting in January, Carvalho said, parents and guardians will be able to track their children’s buses on computers or on smartphones.
It improves upon the existing GPS tracking system and will be piloted throughout the upcoming school year while it is being refined for a full launch. It is set to go fully into effect by the 2020-21 school year.
Willy Mendez, senior project manager of Transportation in charge of new routing system, compared the tracking system to that of ride-sharing apps like Uber.
“Unlike Uber, where it’s a driver making one stop, we make multiple stops and we do all this during rush hour,” Mendez said. “Fine-tuning [the process] is a difficult process and it’s going to take a lot of testing.”
He said the improved pilot program will be tested on a selected school to gather feedback before the full launch of it.
The Department of Transportation also laid out procedures for bus safety inspection, which are held every 28 school days during the academic year.
It boasts a rigorous safety and comfort regime for the nearly 45,000 schoolchildren that ride the county buses: checks for appropriate labels and signs in the vehicles, first aid and flare kits, holes in seats, emergency exit alarms, stop arms that allow for better view of exiting children, A/C unit filters, and color-coded seat belts. There are also engine inspections control emissions to be more environmentally friendly.
To prevent children from being left inside, this includes an alarm that rings out if drivers do not hit a child check button before exiting.
Individuals inspecting the bus must be certified by the Florida Department of Education to do so.
The new semester of the school year begins on August 19th.
Correction: The original version of this story stated that the demonstration occurred on Tuesday. The event was on Friday, Aug. 9.