Council to Vote on Student Transportation Oversight Package Regulating City School Buses. Increased Oversight Measures to Include GPS Tracking Of Bus Locations

City Hall – The New York City Council on Wednesday will vote on the Student Transportation Oversight Package (STOP), which will strengthen oversight and increase safety measures on the Department of Education’s school bus system. One of the safety measures under this package of bills is a requirement that all school buses be equipped with a two-way communication device and GPS tracking devices. This will help increase oversight and keep parents aware of any delays a bus may encounter in route.

In addition, the STOP legislation increases reporting requirements for the DOE, including mandating that it reports on bus route times, bus delay frequency, complaints about bus routes, complaints about bus employees, and other school bus services. This package also includes provisions requiring the DOE to create and distribute a school bus transportation guide.

The Council will also vote on legislation aimed at reducing the burden awning sign violations have placed on small businesses. This legislation would establish a temporary program for resolving outstanding judgments related to business awning sign violations. The bill would also set in place a two-year moratorium on the issuance of additional violations, as well as establish a waiver for all work-without-a-permit penalties issued in relation to an awning sign from December 28, 2017 onward.

Additionally, the Council will vote on legislation that would require the Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS) to list city agency reports on its website. DORIS must also publicize on its website when the reports were last received and when they are due next.

The Council will also vote on legislation clarifying that for the purposes of enforcing prohibitions against unauthorized commuter van services, the definitions of “for-hire vehicle” and “commuter van” do not include a bus service operating pursuant to a contract with any government.

Student Transportation Oversight Package

Requiring Reporting On School Bus Route Durations

Introduction 89-C, sponsored by Council Member Andy King, would require the Department of Education (DOE) to report twice a year on the number of school bus routes scheduled to take less than an hour, between one and two hours, and over two hours, and the average length of time scheduled for school bus routes in each community school district. The bill would also require DOE to share actual school bus transportation times, as recorded by GPS trackers, with the Council twice a year.

“I, as a working adult, have at times become annoyed and frustrated after traveling an hour or more to get to work. Now, imagine the frustration of a child at age 6, 13 or 17 who has had to endure an hour of travel time and then is expected to function well in the classroom. It’s a struggle for a child. This piece of legislation is designed to comprehend the travel times of all of our contracted school buses and bring about a resolution to decrease the travel times for the betterment of our children.  The bus companies and drivers have a responsibility to our children, and to the parents, to not leave us wondering why the travel time is so long for our children to get to school and back home,” said Council Member Andy King

Requiring the Creation and Distribution of a School Bus Ridership Guide

Introduction 451-B, sponsored by Council Member Daniel Dromm, would require the Department of Education to distribute a School Bus Ridership Guide in hard copy and electronically to all students and parents. This guide would include a description of eligibility for school bus services, what the services entail, information for parents and students living in temporary housing and students in foster care, and the responsibilities of students and parents using DOE’s school bus services.

“This school bus ridership guide will be an invaluable resource for all public school children and families,” said Council Member Daniel Dromm.  “It will inform parents on what they should expect from those who transport our students to school every day.  By including information for students living in temporary housing and foster care, and by mandating that the DOE posts information on its website in the top 6 languages spoken in NYC, my legislation ensures that the wellbeing of all our students is taken into account.  Once again, I thank Speaker Johnson and Chair Treyger for their commitment to strengthening public education in our city.”

Requiring the DOE to Report on Procedures Related to Misconduct by an Employee of a School Bus Vendor

Introduction 926-B, sponsored by Council Speaker Corey Johnson, would require the Department of Education (DOE) to share with parents and post on its website how parents can file a complaint about a school bus employee, the process by which the department investigates such a complaint, and the possible results of such an investigation. The bill also requires DOE to share the protocols for school bus services in inclement weather emergencies.

Requiring the DOE to Report on Complaints and Investigations Relating to School Bus Transportation Services

Introduction 929-B, sponsored by Council Member Joseph Borelli, would require the Department of Education (DOE) to report twice a year on all of the calls and complaints received from parents and guardians about school bus services, the investigations DOE opened into school bus employees, the number of those investigations that were substantiated, and a description of outcomes taken by DOE in the event of a substantiated investigation.

“It’s an honor for my bill to be included as part of this school bus safety legislative initiative. Making bus investigations and reports transparent and available to the public is critical to maintaining the trust parents have in the school bus system. Every parent feels anxious when someone else is responsible for their child’s safety, however brief, and these bills will provide additional protections and give parents access to the information they need when they make requests to the Department of Education’s Office of Pupil Transportation. I’d like to thank Speaker Corey Johnson and Education Committee Chair Mark Treyger for making school bus safety a priority and moving these bills closer to law,” said Council Member Joe Borelli.

Requiring the Placement of Communication Devices and Tracking Devices on School Buses

Introduction 1099-A, sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, would require each school bus to be equipped with a two-way radio or other communication device for allowing communication with the operator of the school bus. This bill would also require each bus to be equipped with a GPS tracking device, and require authorized parents and guardians to have access to the real time location of their child’s school bus whenever it is in use.

Requiring the DOE to Report Policies and Goals Relating to the Provision of School Bus Transportation Services

Introduction 1148-B, sponsored by Council Member Ben Kallos, would require the Department of Education (DOE) to report twice a year on how school bus routes are determined, goals for time limits for bus routes, and any other goals relating to school bus services. This bill would also require the DOE to report twice a year a list of school bus vendors who completed a dry run of their route as required by their contract, and those bus vendors who are not in compliance with their contractual obligations to complete dry runs. The bill would also require the DOE to share with parents and guardians before the start of the school year their child’s bus route, scheduled arrival and departure times, the vendor assigned to such route, and how a parent can appeal or make a request about the route. The bill would also require the DOE to let parents know daily if their child’s bus is late arriving or departing school.

“No parent should wonder where their child is or when their child is finally getting home from a school bus ride gone off track. Parents would rest assured knowing when and where their child’s school bus is using an app on their phone,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “Sometimes the biggest problems have simple solutions, I am confident this package of legislation will make a real difference in the lives of kids and parents throughout our City. Thank you to Education Chair Mark Treyger for his leadership and to Council Member Chaim Deutsch who has spent 18 years working on this issue starting under then-Council Member Michael Nelson. Lastly, thank you to Speaker Corey Johnson for fast-tracking this bill so we get it implemented by the coming school year.”

Requiring the DOE to Report on School Bus Transportation Services

Introduction 1173-B, sponsored by Council Member Mark Treyger, would require the Department of Education (DOE) to report twice a year on the department’s school bus services, including the vendors providing school bus transportation to students, the number of vehicles and employees used by such vendors, the number of bus routes and transportation sites in use, the number of students using school bus transportation including the type of students, and the categories of students who are eligible for DOE transportation services. The bill would also require DOE to report twice a year on the frequency of school bus delays and no shows.

“Many of our city’s families rely on school buses to get their children to and from school in a safe and timely manner, and they deserve better than the dismal conditions and service they faced at the start of the school year and during Winter Storm Avery. This legislation will provide access to comprehensive data about our city’s school transit services, creating the layers of transparency and accountability we need to work towards a safer way of getting our kids to and from school with dignity and respect. I thank Speaker Corey Johnson for lending this critical package of legislation the necessary support,” said Council Member Mark Treyger, chair of the Committee on Education.

Establishing Temporary Programs and Procedures Related to Awning Violations

Introduction 728-B, sponsored by Council Member Rafael Espinal, would establish a temporary program for the resolution of outstanding judgments resulting from accessory sign (awning) violations. It would also establish a two-year moratorium on the issuance of additional accessory sign violations, as well as a temporary assistance program to facilitate the re-installation of accessory signs for respondents who have already paid related penalties. This bill would also establish an interagency task force to explore issues related to accessory signs, and require the Department of Buildings to provide a report to the Council that contains information about accessory sign violations. Finally, this bill would establish a waiver of all work without a permit penalties issued in relation to the hanging of an accessory sign from December 28, 2017 going forward.

“From day one, Intro. 728 has been about delivering relief to small businesses. Walk up Fulton Street in my district, or 3rd Avenue in Bay Ridge, or Union Street in Flushing, and you can witness first-hand the toll that this enforcement blitz has taken on our mom-and-pop shops, family-owned restaurants, and other small businesses. The bill I am sponsoring will put a stop to that, and ensure we are working with small businesses, rather than unfairly penalizing them for laws that most didn’t even know existed. I want to thank my colleagues in the Council, including Peter Koo, Justin Brannan, Carlos Menchaca, Kalman Yeger, Mark Gjonaj, and Bob Holden for their work on this critical issue,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal.

Requiring the Online Publication of Required Reports List

Introduction 828-A, sponsored by Council Member Fernando Cabrera, would require the Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS) to list on its website all of the reports required by law to be transmitted to the Council or Mayor. The list would include relevant information such as their frequency, the law to which they are responsive and the agency or agencies primarily responsible. The list would also provide users with access to every instance of each such report that is received by DORIS. For any report not received, DORIS would be required to request such report from the relevant agency and post such request in place of the report until the report is received. Finally, it would require copies of reports to be sent to DORIS electronically, rather than by paper.

“Everyone can agree that transparency is a critical component of responsive and effective government.  This requires that accurate and up-to-date information be easily available to the public.  A recent review revealed that several years of reports from some major agencies- including the Department of Buildings- were missing from the Department of Records and Information Services (DORIS).  Intro 828-A would require the Department to post a list of every report, document, study or publication required by local law to be sent to the Council or the Mayor, along with a link to such report, to its website. The bill would also require the Department to list all required reports, when they were last received and when they are next due. If an agency doesn’t submit a required report to the Department, the bill would require DORIS to send a request to the responsible agency and to post this request to its website in lieu of the report.  Intro 828-A will provide New Yorkers greater access to information and make public the failure to provide required reports,” said Council Majority Whip Fernando Cabrera.

Ensuring Enforcement of Prohibitions Against Unauthorized Commuter Vans.

Introduction 1299-A, sponsored by Council Member Jumaane Williams, would clarify that for the purposes of enforcing prohibitions against unauthorized commuter van services, the definitions of “for-hire vehicle” and “commuter van” do not include a public bus service operating pursuant to a contract with the city, any county within the state of New York, the state of New York or any other state or local government.

“We need to expand opportunities for New Yorkers to access transportation options, particularly in areas underserved by trains. That includes traditional buses as well as the commuter vans which have been an invaluable asset to my and many communities. Supporting and elevating legitimate commuter van operations in conjunction with the rest of our transportation infrastructure is vital for communities across the city,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams.

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