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New Education Dept. data paints less rosy picture of school bus debut on 1st day of classes


The debut Thursday of a revamped school bus system wasn’t nearly as much of an improvement over last year’s chaotic opening day as Education Department officials initially said.

When the Daily News asked the agency Thursday how many parent calls had come into the transportation call center that day — a measure the agency has used in the past to gauge how many families are having problems — officials said they’d received almost 7,000 calls as of 2 p.m., compared to 27,000 calls overall on last year’s first day.

But the comparison was apples to oranges.

The 27,000 figure from last year included calls where parents opted for an automated message in addition to those who asked to speak to a phone operator. But the figures from Thursday — which reached about 11,600 calls by the end of the day — only included parents who asked for a human operator.

The number of parents who called for an operator on last year’s first day was roughly 12,700 — making this year’s number a slight improvement, but nowhere close to the dramatic one the initial data suggested.

The city’s Education Department installed GPS trackers to every bus, added 30 staffers to the transportation call center, and imposed stricter fines on bus companies in the hopes of shoring up bus service after hundreds and perhaps thousands of families faced delayed or missing buses at the beginning of schools in years past.

Department officials said including only parents who asked for an actual operator was a better indicator of how many families were having problems with bus service. They said in the rush to get out the data on Thursday, they didn’t realize they weren’t providing matching numbers.

“We successfully bused 149,000 students yesterday, and 92 percent of routes arrived on time. We’re improving and altering routes if necessary and immediately addressing individual concerns families may have," said agency spokeswoman Miranda Barbot.