The Hawaii State Department of Education has taken another major step in the overhaul of its student transportation system.
Before the Board of Education Finance and Infrastructure Committee meeting on Tuesday, the DOE announced that Roberts Hawaii and Ground Transport, Inc. were selected as Oahu bus vendors for the following school year, 2014-15.
The contracts are among major reform efforts underway since December 2012 to meet recommendations by the State Office of the Auditor and the DOE's transportation consultant, Management Partnership Services to make fundamental changes to the bus procurement process.
Contracts were awarded to Roberts Hawaii School Bus and Ground Transport, Inc. on Nov. following a Request for Proposal process that began in July 2013. The RFP was divided into seven clusters, and 305 school bus routes on the island of Oahu, with Roberts receiving 181 routes, and Ground the other 124.
The awards were based on best value, which considers cost and quality. In all, the combined award amount for the two companies was nearly $21 million for 2014-15. The RFP incorporated a completely revised contract performance management process that will result in more effective oversight of operations and transportation expenditures.
The DOE's bus transportation reform efforts, known collectively as the "Get on Board" program, is a multi-year, multi-phased effort to transform how the DOE delivers transportation services to its students. The initiative resulted from a comprehensive study by MPS commissioned after 100 bus routes were eliminated in June 2012 due to rising contract costs and budget cuts. MPS determined that a fundamental overhaul of the DOE's Student Transportation Services Branch was needed, including changes to contracting practice to encourage competitive pricing, clarify expectation and improve contract management.
"Get on Board" officially launched earlier this school year when bus service was restored to as many as 1,000 students at 32 schools in the Aiea, Moanalua, Pearl City, Radford and Waipahu High complex areas. Last month, the second phase of “Get on Board” got underway with service reinstated to 200 students from August Ahrens Elementary, Highlands Intermediate, Pearl City High and Waipahu High. It was during the program’s second phase that the use of Transfinder’s RoutefinderPro computerized software was used to optimize stop times and route directions in a portion of the service area.
The report also noted Hawaii’s unique geography and relatively closed market as additional constraints to the procurement system. Specifically, MPS recommended the DOE pilot a revised business model, “Get on Board” for 2013, and execute a revised competitive procurement process for contracts in the 2014-15 school year. Another MPS recommendation led to the signing of two State Senate bills by Gov. Neil Abercrombie that gave the DOE more flexibility in how it awards bus contracts.
"The reforms in the delivery of student transportation services are key contributors to enhancing the educational experiences of our students," said Raymond L'Heureux, assistant superintendent for the DOE’s Office of School Facilities and Support Services. "The RFP process is an example of how the DOE continues to focus on innovations and technologies that will allow us to deliver our services in the most efficient and effective manner possible."
The DOE's school bus transportation system serves more than 35,000 students annually through 700 buses operated by 12 contractors on five islands -- Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai and the Big Island.
The Hawaii State Department of Education is the ninth largest U.S. school district and the only statewide educational system in the country. It is comprised of 288 schools and serves more than 185,000 students. Hawaii’s public school system was established in 1840 by King Kamehameha III. To learn more, visit HawaiiPublicSchools.org.