School transportation office needs full audit: Brooklyn pols

Michael Elsen-Rooney

September 20, 2019

Originally published in NY Daily News on September 20, 2019.

The city’s Office of Pupil transportation needs a top-to-bottom look after a series of school bus errors that wreaked havoc for families and put kids in danger, two Brooklyn politicians said Friday.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D – Brooklyn) and City Council Member Justin Brannan (D – Brooklyn) asked the city Education Department for an audit of its transportation office after a school bus dropped a non-verbal five-year-old with autism at the wrong school Thursday.

“It’s time to get to the root cause of OPT’s dysfunction,” Gounardes said. “The time for a full audit of OPT’s activity is now, before any other child is harmed.”

The city’s troubled yellow bus system is only a year removed from its last major administrative shakeup.After a series of Daily News articles last summer highlighted transportation dysfunction ranging from breakdowns and delays to a broken background check system for drivers, schools Chancellor Richard Carranza fired the long-time chief of the office Eric Goldstein in September 2018.

His replacement, Kevin Moran, was tasked with improving service this year and overseeing the rollout of a new GPS system.

Education Department officials point to minor improvements this year – including 5,444 service complaints in the first five days of school this year compared to 6,237 in the same span last year.

But some promised changes have fallen flat. Department officials promised parents would be able to call a hotline to get real-time GPS updates this year, and added 30 staffers to the transportation call center.

Yet when The News monitored calls to the hotline last week, operators told parents that GPS on their kids’ buses wasn’t available.

A recent city investigation revealed that a botched GPS contract from 2015 produced disastrous results including devices that weren’t activated 75-80% of the time. A contract for a new GPS system in partnership with the rideshare app Via was approved Wednesday.

“Anything less than a safe and timely ride to school is unacceptable, and we quickly address any concerns families may have,” said Education Department spokeswoman Miranda Barbot. "We are making improvements to yellow bus service across the City ... We have been in close communication with Senator Gounardes’ office over the last week, and will review the most recent letter.”