Lawmakers are poised to pass sweeping legislation to improve the city’s yellow school bus service in the wake of the disastrous yellow school bus crisis of 2018.
The City Council will vote Wednesday on a set of eight laws created in response to the record number of busing problems since the start of the school year that began in September, in which city kids faced delays of more than four hours and were subjected to bus staffers who committed serious crimes.
The new laws will 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.
They’ll also require the city to issue public reports on the quality of school bus service, test busing routes and 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 that some of the laws emerge from an October hearing prompted in part by Daily News coverage of the busing crisis.
And he said the legislation aims to give city families relief from the school busing problems that prompted nearly 130,000 complaints calls during the month of September alone, representing an increase of about 20,000 calls from the same period last year.
“What we saw at the opening of the school year was a whole host of dismal conditions,” said Treyger, who’s the key sponsor of the bus reporting bill. “But we are now moving a package of legislation that I believe will result in the the most comprehensive accountability and transparency.”
Amid the spike in complaints over busing service at the start of the year, a series of Daily News reports exposed massive delays and no shows in the bus system — and exposed outcry over the hiring of drivers with serious criminal records.
Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza promised to overhaul the city’s long-troubled, $1.2 billion yellow bus system at a hearing over the issue in October and fired two top executives tasked with running the system that transports roughly 150,000 students.
But the busing problems took center stage again in November when a surprise snowstorm caused gridlock that delayed roughly 700 bus routes, stranding thousands of students 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 that requiring city school buses to operate electronic tracking devices will provide worried parents with knowledge of their kids’ whereabouts.
“Parents have brought up concerns they don’t know when the bus is coming home,” Kallos said. “Now they’ll finally be in position to know where their kids are. I’m hoping it’ll have a big impact.”
Parents of public school children impacted by problems with the city’s long-struggling bus system were eager for relief promised by the proposed legislation, which would take affect by September.
“Right now it’s the Wild West and we don’t have proper oversight — that why the bus crisis was what it was,” said Rachel Ford, a Queens parent and member of the Parents to Improve School Transportation advocacy group, whose son was delayed on his school bus for nearly four hours at the start of the school year.
“I would be jubilant if these pass, but it’s a question of enforcement,” Ford added. “I’d love see the City Council to put some teeth behind it.”
City Education Department spokeswoman Miranda Barbot said the city is in the midst of a number of steps to improve the school bus system.
“Families deserve safe and reliable school transportation, which is why we’re placing GPS on all buses,” Barbot said. “We have a new leader in place who’s improving communication with parents, and there’s an ongoing audit of our bus contracts.”