Pilot Project Explores School Buses and GPS Technology

The Houston School District wants to know if global satellite tracking systems can be used to keep an eye on school buses, and officials are planning a pilot project to see if it will work. Houston Public Radio's JimBell reports.

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If the school board goes along, HISD administrators plan to equip 50 school buses with Global Positioning Systems that will track the buses every minute they're on the road. Drivers will also have a silent panic button that will alert HISD police if there's trouble on the bus. Transportation director Bonnie Russell says the technology is there and it should be used to protect students.

"Certainly this GPS project is not reactionary to the recent school events. This is a project that we've been working on for actually a little more than a year now. And I think it's just looking at what is reasonable, in equipping our buses with resources that can offer additional safety and security to our students."

Russell says GPS can be programmed to alert police if a bus goes off its route, or if it stays too long in one place. That's one way it can also help save taxpayer money.

"For example we'll be equipping our system so that if a particular bus exceeds what our maximum idle time is, we'll get an alert on that so we can remind the driver what our policies are for fuel conservation here."

It'll cost $50,000to equip 50 buses with GPS for the pilot project, and Russell says it'll only take a few months to see if it's worth the cost or not. If it does live up to expectations, they'll put GPS on all one thousand HISD buses, at a cost of about $850,000. Jim Bell, Houston Public Radio News.