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January 19, 2019

New laws aim to fix broken NYC school bus system

January 11, 2019
Sweeping legislation passed by the City Council on Wednesday is meant to address rampant delays and frightfully incompetent bus staffing that exposed city school kids to hours-long delays and bus workers who’ve committed serious crimes. (iStock & Daily News Archive)

New laws aim to get the the city’s yellow school bus system back into shape after crisis beset the system this school year — with record complaints and delays, reports of corruption and a federal probe all exposed in a series of Daily News stories.

Sweeping legislation passed by City Council on Wednesday will address the rampant delays and frightfully incompetent bus staffing that exposed city school kids to hours-long delays and bus workers who’ve committed serious crimes.

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The set of eight laws approved by lawmakers mandate the use of GPS tracking systems on school buses so parents can see where their kids are going — and require school bus drivers to carry two-way radio systems to communicate with families and dispatchers.

The new rules — created in response to a record number of busing problems since the start of the school year —also require the city to issue public reports on the quality of school bus service, to test busing routes and to notify families of kids’ busing routes before the start of the school year, among other things.

Brooklyn Councilman Mark Treyger (D-Bensonhurst), chair of the City Council Education Committee, said package of laws was created in large part due to the Daily News’ coverage of the busing crisis.

He said he hopes the laws will aid roughly 150,000 public school kids who rely on bus service and provide relief from problems that prompted nearly 130,000 complaints calls during the month of September alone.

Treyger, the key sponsor of the bus reporting bill, called the laws “the most comprehensive oversight and reform we’ve ever seen of our student transit system.”

He said the legislation help would drag the city’s entrenched yellow bus industry in to the 21st century.

“We’re building the accountability and transparency necessary to ensure that our city’s children and families are receiving the safe, efficient, and humane school transportation services they deserve,” he added.

Since the start of the school year in September, a series of reports in The News exposed massive delays and no-shows and exposed the practice of hiring of drivers with serious criminal records.

At a hearing over the issue in October, city schools Chancellor Richard Carranza promised to overhaul the long-troubled, $1.2 billion yellow bus system. He also removed two top executives tasked with running the system that transports roughly 150,000 students.

But in November a surprise snowstorm exposed weakness in the busing system again, causing gridlock that delayed roughly 700 bus routes, and left thousands of students stranded on freezing roads until the last kids were dropped off at their homes after 4:30 a.m.

Councilman Ben Kallos (D-Upper East Side), a new parent who proposed the GPS bill, said worried parents will get some relief from his law requiring city school buses to operate electronic tracking to broadcast their whereabouts.

“”No parent should wonder where their child is or when their child is finally getting home,” Kallos said. “Sometimes the biggest problems have simple solutions, I am confident this package of legislation will make a real difference.”

City Education Department officials said the city already undertaking a number of steps to improve the school bus system, including an audit of contracts with bus companies to improve service and prevent waste.

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