NYC Student Transportation Modernization Plan

Introduction

In 2019, the DOE began a multi-year project to modernize NYC’s student transportation system. The results of this project will provide families with essential information and peace of mind when their children are utilizing DOE transportation, as well as creates new lines of communication between schools, bus companies, and families. This effort is in partnership with Via, a leader in transportation technology.

This project focuses on five areas, designed to provide greater transparency into student transportation and more efficient busing operations.

  • Routing: upgrade route design and management systems to be more efficient 
  • Fleet: update the DOE’s vehicle tracking and management systems 
  • Automatic vehicle location (AVL): provide location data about our buses while they take children to and from school
  • Ridership: verify when and where a student boards and exits a school bus 
  • Real-time communications: provide information to bus staff, schools, and families about student transportation to and from school
    • Families can receive notifications about their child
    • Seamless communication between families, bus companies, and schools

At its conclusion, this effort will provide transparency to families and schools, and at 472,000 users, will have one of the largest technology footprints in the DOE. 

Partnership with Via

Why is the Department of Education partnering with Via in New York City?

We are working with Via to customize a solution for student transportation to meet the needs of New York City families, students, schools, administrators, and school bus companies. We are introducing these technologies to NYC student transportation to improve the overall quality of service.

Via has global experience providing innovative software solutions to optimize networks of school buses, dynamic shuttles, buses, wheelchair accessible vehicles, and autonomous vehicles.

What are the goals for this project? 

Every child has a right to effective and efficient transportation and this initiative will help us to improve bus operations for the country’s largest school district. The project will make it easy for families to verify a student's location when they are riding the school bus and will provide near real-time pickup and drop-off times.

The Driver App 

The first phase of this process focuses on training drivers and school bus companies in appropriate practices and use of the Via technology. This phase will support consistent login to the Driver App and adherence to assigned routes, setting the foundation for successful tracking of rider status in later stages.

A Via school bus in a lot with drivers standing outside

School Administrative Console 

The School Administrative Console allows schools to view the location of school buses serving their school on a single screen. Once the majority of our school bus drivers and vendors adopt the Driver App, the NYC School Bus App and School Administrative Console will begin to report the location of buses.

NYC School Bus App 

The NYC School Bus App is a mobile application for families that shows the real-time location of the bus and provides notifications about their child(ren) boarding and exiting the bus.

NYC School Bus Mobile Application screen
the map view from within the school bus application. The top of the screen provides a brief status, stating that
view when the viewer has more than one student visible to them within the school bus application.
support page within the school bus application.

Ridership Tracking 

Ridership tracking will allow families to get notifications when their child boards and exits the school bus. This project phase includes passes for students to scan, the ability for students to have their own account in the NYC School Bus App. 

Approach

Each phase of this process is centered on building tools and systems that work for various stakeholders (drivers, schools, families, students, etc.). As we test each component step, we will gather feedback from our stakeholders, make improvements, and then scale up to continuously improve our system and better serve our families.

Icon of a driver behind a steering wheel.

Phase 1

Driver App and AVL Tracking

Icon of school buildings and caregivers.

Phase 2

NYC School Bus App and School Administrative Console

Icon of a student holding a mobile device.

Phase 3

Student Ridership Tracking

History

How did the modernization project come about? 

A new Chancellor’s Regulation (A-802) requires the installation and use of automated vehicle location equipment on school buses. We also amended new bus contracts to include provisions that require the use of AVL while operating buses.

By the end of 2019, 10,000 AVL devices were installed on our school buses.

As part of this effort, we issued a request for proposals (RFP) to modernize our busing systems. The contract was awarded to Via.

What has the DOE achieved in partnership with Via so far? 

Work on this project began in September 2019. 

Accomplishments during the 2019-20 school year

  • Began engagement with three bus companies and a focus group of a small group of drivers about the Driver App
  • Gathering and documentation of business and technical requirements
  • Began engagement with schools and district offices about various administrative consoles
  • In February 2020, held feedback session with families and advocates on the NYC School Bus App

We paused the project in 2020 due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it recommenced in the 2020-21 school year by kicking off with small-scale testing of systems to ensure that each component was successful before expanding. Full rollout will be accomplished through a phased approach.  

What Will Happen During the 2021-22 School Year?

  • The Driver App will be released to all our school bus drivers by the end of the 2021-22 school year
    • In the 2020-21 school year, the DOE began a pilot program with two bus vendors to install and train drivers on the Driver App, focused on ensuring drivers logged into the system and followed the assigned routing on every trip
  • All school buses will be installed with hardware to accommodate the Via system
  • Over the course of the 2021-22 school year, the NYC School Bus App will be released to a subset of families
  • We will continue to work with schools and families to gather feedback and make improvements on the App
  • We will build an awareness and marketing campaign for the citywide release of the NYC School Bus App

For More Information

Please regularly check this page for updates.

Frequently Asked Questions

How will the NYC School Bus App work? 

The NYC School Bus App will provide families with the location of their child’s school bus. Over time, updates to the app will provide families with notifications on the expected arrival time of the school bus, information about the time and location at which their child is getting on and off the school bus, and notifications about delays. In addition, families can use the app to share information about day-to-day student attendance and busing needs.

More information will be shared as the app approaches its release date

Who can use the NYC School Bus App? 

The NYC School Bus App will be available for families of students who receive bus transportation from the New York City Department of Education, including students at public, non-public, and charter schools. 

When and how can I sign up for the NYC School Bus App? 

You will get access to the NYC School Bus App through a DOE NYC Schools Account

Your school will communicate roll-out timelines directly with you. We will also keep this page updated with timelines and instructions.

Will the app be accessible in multiple languages and for visually-impaired uses? 

Yes. The NYC School Bus App will be available in ten languages and will adhere to WCAG accessibility standards.

What if I don’t have a smartphone? 

There will be a web version of the NYC School Bus App that can be accessed using a laptop or desktop computer.

Your school or district office can assist you with transportation information if you don’t have access to a computer. 

How will NYCDOE and Via handle data privacy? 

The DOE and Via follow the highest security standards for data privacy and security. The DOE will only share the minimum required data, will require highly secure logins for all users, and will perform data encryption and continuous security testing on the system. 

What is Via's role in the project? 

Via is providing the software. The service will operate using DOE buses and bus drivers.

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