School bus fleets not immune to gas prices

Think you are feeling the sting of $4 a gallon?

Imagine pulling up to the pump with an empty 60 or 100-gallon fuel tank.

Transportation departments for public schools are experiencing the pinch, and many are acting to increase efficiency, decrease miles driven and make each gallon count.

But it is not going to be easy. A typical school bus, carrying a full load of around 70 passengers, eeks out about 10 miles per gallon.


At Jordan-Elbridge, the transportation department started compensating for the rising gas prices three years ago.

Bruce Walters, head of the department, said implementing a new computer system and new policies has helped the transportation system has become much more efficient.

By making simple changes, like adding more group bus stops, consolidating busing for athletic teams, and cutting the number of buses running between schools from 12 to six, Walters said the transportation team has been cutting annual mileages for three consecutive years.

Higher prices, more changes

"Everything we touch - oil, tires, parts - has gone up tremendously," Walters said.

In response to those rising costs, it is not just fuel use and miles driven that is being examined for efficiency.

West Genesee Transportation Supervisor Gerald Williams said there are many options available to help beat prices, and they are all being examined closely.

"There's no question, all transportation are affected by the cost of fuel," Williams said.

He said the department is waiting to see how things play out, and weighing the different options carefully before making a change that will impact the students.

Riding, not driving

Walters said in the fall of 2007, there was a moderate increase in the number of students opting to ride the bus.

"Some parents called and told us their kids that did drive were going to be riding," he said.

So what if every student suddenly opts to take the bus?

The department plans for that, Walters said. "A full school bus is an efficient bus."

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