The City Estimates Savings of $100 Million Over Five Years in Contracts Bid Out This Winter
Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott today announced the City would save an estimated $100 million over five years through savings secured in new bus contracts that were put out for bid last December. The Chancellor also announced plans to bid out another roughly 3,100 routes on April 30 for contracts expiring in 2014. These routes serve approximately 18,000 school-age students with disabilities during the school year and approximately 17,000 students during summer school.
“In our preliminary review of the new bus bids, we see an estimated savings of $100 million over five years and these savings will go directly to schools for our students and teachers,” Chancellor Walcott said. “When we announced the request for bids, we said that through a competitive bidding process we would anticipate savings while maintaining the highest standards for safe and dependable yellow bus service for our students. We hope to see similar savings in the next round of bids we will be releasing at the end of the month.”
The estimated $100 million savings is on top of the estimated savings of $95 million from Pre-Kindergarten bus contracts that were bid out in 2011, the first time the City bid out large bus contracts since 1979. In 1979, the Department of Education (DOE) spent $71 million per year on busing. Since then, the cost for busing has skyrocketed to $1.1 billion per year – an increase of about 1,550 percent.
In December, the DOE released a request for bids for five-year contracts for more than 1,100 school bus routes – about a sixth of DOE’s total routes. These routes serve 22,500 students in kindergarten through 12th grade who have disabilities that require special transportation. The routes are covered by contracts that are set to expire on June 30, 2013. As a result of the request for bids, an unprecedented 65 vendors submitted bids. The DOE is reviewing these bids, which include bids from 40 new companies. It is likely that other new vendors will bid in the future as a result of opening the bidding process. In total, the DOE has contracts that cover the school year for 7,700 total bus routes that serve 152,000 students, 54,000 of whom have disabilities and require special transportation services, plus approximately 1,650 routes that run during the summer only.
Earlier this year, Local 1181 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, the largest bus driver and matron union, called a strike to protest the new bids without job guarantees. The DOE could not legally include job guarantees in the bids. Last year, the New York State Court of Appeals ruled that such a guarantee could not legally be included in DOE bus bids for Pre-K school bus services. The contracts resulting from these bids, however, will contain the same safety provisions and requirements that all bus drivers are certified and have completed mandatory trainings.
During the strike, the city assisted parents in finding alternative means of transportation. The DOE distributed 335,000 MetroCards for students and parents of youngsters and students with disabilities. Parents were also reimbursed for taxis and car services that they used to transport their children to school. The Taxi and Limousine Commission helped to make taxis and car service available. As of April 22, the DOE had paid out approximately $2 million in reimbursements to parents for taxis and car services used to transport their child during the strike. Because of the strike, the DOE withheld $76.8 million from bus companies who did not provide service to their routes during the strike.