In 2015, Parkland School District launched an initiative to better leverage technology in their transportation office. They evaluated their existing toolset, as well as offerings from other vendors. In the end, they found the products to be too cumbersome and inefficient to use.
In response, they partnered with Computer Aid Inc. (CAI), a global IT services firm headquartered in their backyard, to build a ground-up solution that addressed their most pressing challenges as one of Pennsylvania’s largest districts:
- Planning and updating constantly changing daily routes and activities
- Managing information and stop assignments for over 10,000 students
- Real-time tracking of their 165 buses
- Recording and submitting mileage and other information required for state reimbursement
“Our joint goal from the beginning has been to create a tool as simple to use as Google Maps,” said SafeTransport’s product manager Peter Balestrini. “That has meant spending a lot of time in transportation offices and experiencing their day-to-day challenges so we can build a solution that solves them and only them. We’ve had a laser focus on creating something that’s simple, streamlined, and easy to learn.”
During a 2016 pilot, Parkland saw immediate results. “Tasks that took us hours or days can be done in minutes using SafeTransport. We used to spend two days planning evening drop-off runs for our band students. This year, it took us an hour and a half,” noted Parkland’s Director of Transportation Anthony Naradko.
In addition to the route planning and rider management capabilities, CAI developed custom hardware that allows for cost effective real-time tracking of buses, allowing administrators to quickly find their exact locations in the event of a breakdown or accident. They are also able to view a bus’s history, including any speed violations and the average timings of each stop.
After a year of evolving the product through close feedback from Parkland, CAI began offering SafeTransport to other districts. “SafeTransport has been great. It’s made our lives so much easier. Adding new students, changing their stops, and adjusting runs is so much faster than with the software we had,” said Ray Nunemacher, Terminal Manager of Northern Lehigh School District. “Being able to pull up the map and see where everyone is has been so helpful. We also love that we can use the app from anywhere, even on our phones.”
Amy Himmelreich of the Northwestern Lehigh School District expressed a similar experience: “As far as using it, entering the students, it’s very simple. It’s so straightforward. I used to have to go to four different screens to add a new student and assign them to a route. Now everything’s all in one place.”
“The knowledge, experience, and constant feedback we’ve gotten from the transportation teams at Parkland and other districts has been critical in the success of this project,“ explains Peter Detweiler, a user experience designer on the SafeTransport development team at CAI. “The task of keeping a district’s transportation operations running smoothly is a tricky one, but in working together so closely, I think we’ve been able to develop a tool that makes it as seamless as possible.”
To learn more about SafeTransport, click here.