June 21, 2024

Finding Savings in a Growing District: Tales from the Road

Author: Sara McGrath
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How do you find transportation savings in a school district
that is growing by leaps and bounds?  Ask
Joe Dives of Magnolia ISD: his district of 13,200 students has grown more than
10 percent just in the last three years, and between 2007 and 2009 the district
grew nearly 30 percent in size. Yet transportation for the district is being
run safely and student needs are being met, while costs are staying under

Joe is one of three panelists who will participate in an upcoming webinar about operational efficiency, and I spoke with him to share his story so that you can learn more about the experience he will bring to that event. You can register for that webinar here.

Back in 2007 when Joe joined Magnolia Independent School
District in Magnolia, Texas, the district was still relying on paper and manual
data entry to manage their bus routes, which was completely inadequate for a
growing district already serving an area of more than 150 square miles. “I was
also informed there would be a 10 percent reduction from the previous year’s
budget. This 10 percent reduction came at a time when fuel prices soared from
the $1.50 per gallon range to over $4.00 per gallon,” Joe said.

He not only needed to bring the transportation department
into the 21st century, he needed to do it while significantly
reducing his overall spending.

The first step was to find the right technology, which
included the Versatrans Routing & Planning solution from Tyler. With the
tools in place, Joe found immediate savings by automating and optimizing
routes. “We reduced our miles that we traveled,” he told me. “When you reduce
the miles you travel, you’re saving money. You’re not putting as much fuel in
the bus. We’re not running as many miles on our tires, so we can save tires
because they’re lasting longer. The same thing with oil changes, you have more
time between them. Then of course, if you’re not running as many miles on the
bus this year, then that bus instead of lasting twelve years, you might get
fourteen years, fifteen years, out of it. When a bus costs $100,000, that’s
saving money right there.”

Transportation operating costs at Magnolia dropped by over
$1.2 million in just the first year. And between 2008 and 2016, the district
didn’t add a single route. Joe explained that this “is a big deal because we
had, in those same eight years, three apartment complexes of about three
hundred units each go in. They built ten subdivisions in our school district.
But we didn’t have to add a bus route because we were able to optimize our
routes. I think that says a lot.”

There’s a lot more that Joe and his district have done to improve their operational efficiency and find needed dollars, and the other panelists on our upcoming webinar have great stories of their own, with experience that can help other transportation professionals find solutions for their own districts. I hope you’ll join to hear what Joe and the other panelists have to say!