Why use Bus Bulletin instead of a District-Wide Messaging System?

Why use Bus Bulletin instead of a District-Wide Messaging System?

We have spoken with dozens of transportation directors who have tried to adapt district-wide messaging systems (DWS) to send notifications related to pupil transportation. Not one has indicated that they had a positive experience implementing or using that type of system.

Based on conversations with transportation directors, there are three major factors involved when comparing Bus Bulletin to district-wide messaging systems; Time, Money, Frustration.

Before proceeding, It is important to understand a few fundamental concepts regarding Bus Bulletin.

  1. Bus Bulletin is hosted on our secure servers which we configure, support and maintain.
  2. Parents register with Bus Bulletin and are responsible for maintaining their own contact information.
  3. It requires less than 10 seconds to send a pre-worded notification which is then received within 5 to 20 seconds via text message, voice call, e-mail or any combination.
  4. Notifications can be sent to parents, students, school administrators and district personnel.

Time

District-wide systems are not designed to communicate transportation related information and configuring them to do so requires a significant amount of time and resources. These are some of the time related issues that other districts encountered when they tried to use a DWS.

  1. It often required months to configured the DWS to send transportation related notifications.
  2. The transportation department was dependent upon the IT department to make enhancements or resolve issues.
  3. Sending notifications was difficult and slow, and the district often had to call and record a message before it could be distributed.
  4. The DWS did not notify school administrators, so the transportation department still spent time contacting schools to notify them of delays, schedule changes and accidents.
  5. The IT department spent a considerable amount of time and effort maintaining the parent contact information.

Compare these issues to Bus Bulletin:

  1. Bus Bulletin can be fully operational within 24 hours of the time we receive bus route data which can be exported from your routing software in less than an hour.
  2. We fully support Bus Bulletin and answer to you, our customer. We actually look for opportunities to provide enhancements since it makes Bus Bulletin more valuable to our customers.
  3. Sending notifications is simple and fast and usually takes less than 10 seconds.
  4. Bus Bulletin notifies everyone affected by bus delays, schedule changes and accidents. Plus, it has an employee notification module that can be used to communicate with drivers, transportation employees and district personnel.
  5. Parents register and maintain their own contact information.

Money

While using a DWS may not require any additional expenditure of capital funds, there is a cost in terms of human and electronic resources, and lost productivity. This cost affects both the transportation department and the IT department.

Cost to Transportation Department
The transportation department loses productivity while waiting for and using a DWS. The following list contains a few of the tasks that are typically performed by transportation staff while waiting for, or using, a DWS.

  1. Placing phone calls to school administrators to convey information regarding buses that have experienced delays, schedule changes or accidents.
  2. Placing phone calls to parents of ESE students informing them of bus delays or changes.
  3. Fielding phone calls from parents and school administrators who inquire about buses that are running behind schedule.
  4. Fielding phone calls from frustrated parents complaining about lack of communication regarding delayed buses.
  5. Spending 10 to 15 minutes to generate a message with the DWS.

Based on the experiences of other transportation departments, using a DWS often causes more work than it saves since it is not simple or fast to use. Conversely, Bus Bulletin is fast, simple and efficient since it notifies everyone who is affected by delays or schedule changes in a matter of seconds.

Cost to IT Department
Aside from license fees and telecommunication costs associated with using the DWS, the IT department will pay a significant cost for the human and electronic resources required to configure and support the DWS so that it can be used by the transportation department. Conversely, the IT department is seldom involved in a Bus Bulletin implementation.

Below is a list of tasks that must be completed by the district IT department when using a DWS, and a list of tasks that are necessary to support Bus Bulletin.

District IT Department responsibilities when using Bus Bulletin

  1. Provide web browser and Internet connection for transportation personnel.

District IT Department responsibilities when using district-wide messaging system

  1. Supply programmers to adapt system for use by the transportation department.
  2. Modify interface as needed and troubleshoot problems.
  3. Maintain parent contact information.
  4. Establish access to bus route data.
  5. Provide and maintain servers for hosting system.
  6. Provide telecommunication capability.

Frustration

Bus Bulletin is simple to use and quickly communicates important information while it still matters. This reduces or eliminates frustration for everyone involved in the transportation process.

  1. Transportation personnel are able to send notifications in a matter of seconds, allowing them to attend to their other duties.
  2. Parents receive information while it still matters. This often makes the difference between waiting for a bus or making it to work on time.
  3. Students are informed and no longer need to question whether they should wait for the bus or call their parents because they think they have missed the bus.
  4. School administrators receive information in time to avoid having to revise attendance records. In the afternoons, they are able to direct students to the correct substitute bus or hold them while awaiting a bus that is delayed.
  5. Superintendents and Transportation Directors receive fewer complaints from parents asking for more communication.

Using a DWS may increase frustration since they are typically not easy to use nor fast. This often results in staff not using those systems since they cause more work than they save.

Summary

District-wide messaging systems are typically very good at doing what they are designed to do; which is sending school wide, or district wide notifications. However, they are not designed to easily send transportation related information.

Bus Bulletin is designed with one purpose: To provide a tool that enables you to quickly communicate essential transportation information in a manner that requires minimal time, effort and training. It accomplishes this much more efficiently than any other system.

While it may be very tempting to try and use a “free” existing district-wide messaging system, there are very real costs (time and personnel) and other factors that make them much less of a value as an effective notification system for pupil transportation departments. If you analyze the costs to customize the messaging system, the lack of direct support, and the lost productivity associated with trying to use a system that is not purposefully designed for your needs, you may very well reach the conclusion that Bus Bulletin is actually a much greater value.