School bus mayhem

I’ve had a bad day thanks to the school bus system in Huntsville and I feel a little guilty over it. After all, the system provides bus service at no cost to me. (insert tax rant here) I’m also aware that the bus service has had a rocky start. So getting upset over this as me felling a little guilty.

At least when I started the process. Now I’m just pissed.

The bus is supposed to be at our stop at 7:13.  It can be a few minutes early if things are going well, but the time is 7:13.  The buses here have had a few problems, so we weren’t upset when the time got push back to 7:15 because they’d added another stop before ours.

Now I know nothing I ever do is typical, so in typical fashion my morning is atypical.  We must get the daughter to daycare BEFORE we get the son to the bus stop.  This means we actually drive past my son’s school (but too early to drop him off) before taking him to his bus stop.  Some days we’re a little late, and we’ve been averaging getting to the stop around 7:10, supposedly 5 minutes before the scheduled stop.

And yet, more often than not we’ve been forced to take our son to the NEXT stop on the route because we’ve missed the bus.  Which got a little confusing.

So yesterday, we miss the bus (again) and chased it down at the next stop.  Where the driver gets out and yells at us for missing the bus and how we are supposed to be at our assigned stop at our assigned time and how our stop time is 7:07 and we need to be there on time.  Oh and by the way, she’s turned us in to the bus office and they’ve been trying to call us and talk to us about that.

Huh?  I’m part of the growing population of people who have ditched their land lines in favor of cell services.  So I’ve got my “home phone” with me all the time.  Had they tried to call, I’d know it.

So the first thing I did at work yesterday was call up the provider of bus transportation, Durham School Services. As you can see in the gallery image below, my first call of the day to Durham was at 8:18 AM.  I didn’t get the name of the person answering the phone, but all I wanted was the time the bus was supposed to be at our bus stop and why they wanted to talk to me.  They couldn’t answer either of those questions, and told me they’d call me back after 9:30 when the drivers are in.

As you can see from my call log, I called them back at 9:57.  This time Betty answered the phone, and she ingnored my initial questions concerning my earlier call, and instead tried to start from scratch asking me where I lived and whatnot.  The interesting thing I learned was that the bus is scheduled in their computers as being at the stop at 7:13.

When I finally got through to her what I wanted to know, Betty informed me that she needed to talk to the driver, who was in a meeting.  She dutifully took my number, again, and promised to call back when she’d spoken to the driver.

When she hadn’t called by nearly one, I called again (The 12:40 call in the call log below).  That’s when I discovered that the driver wasn’t in a meeting at all, but wasn’t in.  She wouldn’t get a chance to talk to the driver until 1:30.  So I assumed that I would get a call at 1:30, and asked her if my assumption was true.  She assured me that it was and all would be solved at 1:30.

As you can see in the call log, I had to call at 2:12.  Yea, Betty forgot to call me back even though I’d expressed extreme concern over the fact that so far I hadn’t gotten a single callback I’d been promised and my distress over the fact that I’d been lied to about the nonexistent meeting. So I called again.  Betty seemed surprised that I called back and put me on hold for almost 5 minutes.  She parroted the time of 7:07 AM that the driver gave us earlier.  She also had no idea why the driver told us that the company had been trying to get in touch with us.

I wasn’t really happy with the answer I got.  I still didn’t know why the company was allegedly trying to contact me.  I still didn’t feel confident that the bus was really supposed to be at the stop by 7:07.  And I was confused why getting some fairly straight answers was becoming so difficult.  Betty suggested I talk to the manager.  I agreed.

Twenty minutes on hold later, someone other than Betty picks up the phone and asks who I’m holding for.  I say the manager and am quickly informed that the manager is not there.  I got a little hot under the collar at this point, still unhappy with what I’d been told and more specifically what I’d not been told.  I may have vented a little here.

I was shuffled off to the manager’s voice mail, and figured that was it.  I wasn’t going to get an answer at all.  But to my surprise and delight, as you can see in the other picture below, the manager called me back at 2:40.  I expressed my displeasure at my customer service experience with his company that day, and still wanted to know what the real scheduled time for that bus stop was.

To his credit, he apologized for the poor customer service, told me that he would check things out and would call me back in less than ten minutes.  According to my call log for his calls, it had to be less than three.  At 2:49 he calls again, and tells me that the computer has the stop scheduled for 7:13 but that the driver has been getting there at 7:07. And he had no idea why she said the company was trying to call us, since he would be the one that would call and he didn’t know anything about it.

He was trying, I’ll give him that.  Apparently it is very hard for them to get word to parents when a bus stop schedule changes.  They have specific channels they have to go through, and it take time to get word to parents about the change.  Old kids get told by the driver, but telling a 5 year old something like that at 7:07 in the morning and expecting them to remember it and pass it on to their parents at 4PM is a little beyond reality.  It was clear he thought he’d done what he needed so I got off the phone.

But I wasn’t real happy with his responses, because they are dumber than dumb.  Look, I’m not a rocket scientist, but I can figure out how this should work.  If the bus driver has a scheduled time to be at a stop, then the driver should be at the stop at that time.  If traffic and the driving gods are in your favor, and you arrive at a stop early… stay at the stop until your appointed time.  How hard is that?  Then guess what… you’ll be at your next stop ON TIME!  Wow!

And if your running late because traffic is against you, pick up the kids who are there and move on.  Again, this isn’t rocket science.

Since the year began, our Son has been late to school at least once, but we think twice, because the bus ran late, even though the bus made our stop on time.  Even early.  My wife is a teacher at a different school and if her experience is the norm, many buses are running late.  So I get trying to push up the schedule and make things move along quickly.  But not without telling the parents first.

And this new bus company is supposed to have GPS trackers on their buses.  They should be able to tell us the average time they arrive at each stop.  But they can’t.  Which makes me wonder why they have GPS on the buses to begin with.

And for the record.  The bus arrived at 7:13 this morning.  I think a little charting of the actual arrival time is in order.

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3 thoughts on “School bus mayhem

    • My kids don’t ride the bus. I take them in the morning and the have after school care at their school.

      I’m still not convinced that the double routes save money. I look forward to seeing the actual books.

  1. I think it is possible it saves money, but I also think it has been characterized deceptively — either that, or whoever wrote the contract with the HCS is now job hunting.

    We are told that the bus costs the same, whether it runs 1 route a day or a dozen. That might be true — if you are talking about only the bus. But there are fuel costs, and surely drivers who used to work 4 hours a day and are now working 6 aren’t being paid the same as they were last year.

    The question is whether the savings in money justify having kids on the bus as early as 6 am and home as late as 5 pm. One teacher at the last Board meeting spoke of a child who was waiting for his bus at 4:15 saying he was tired and he was hungry… of course he was — when did he last eat — 11 am? Have more than a sip of water at a fountain in this August heat? Get home, eat, fall asleep, do it again. Great childhood. All while money is being wasted and wasted on foolishness, aides for the on-the-job learner supe — don’t trainees usually start at lower than experienced employees’ salaries? — and lots and lots of legal fees.

    I don’t have a dog in this race — I’ve always driven mine — but I’m just appalled by who has to carry the can for the incompetence of the grown-ups.

    And then there is the dumping of kids unattended…see http://abouthcs.wordpress.com/

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