AISD bus technology helps catch those who don’t obey stop-arms

(Todd Bynum/KXAN)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — AISD school buses leave the district’s southwest terminal Wednesday morning with technology that is helping give a better idea of just how many people blow by buses when stop-arms are deployed.

Roughly 22,000 Austin students are transported to and from school by bus each and every day. That’s a lot of kids to keep safe, especially when drivers keep ignoring stop-arms.

“My gosh, we have issued about — almost 13,000 tickets last school year. One is too many. One can be disastrous for the life of a child,” said AISD’s Executive Director of Pupil Transportation Kris Hafezizadeh.

Stop-arm cameras were installed on many of the district’s school buses in early 2016. Since the rollout, nearly 22,000 drivers were ticketed for driving by AISD buses with stop arms and lights flashing.

The cameras are mounted on AISD buses, facing forward and backwards. They are located just below the front stop-arm and high near the back of the bus.

Hafezizadeh says this is just one piece of new technology keeping kids safe.

“We have come a long way. These school buses are not the same ones that we had 10, 15 or 20 years ago,” Hafezizadeh said. “They are state of the art and we do what we can to make sure we keep our students safe and we take them to and from school.”

Justo Ramirez is the district’s transportation safety supervisor. He still drives buses every now and then. He remembers a time when new technology was a two-way radio.

“When I first started there was hardly any technology at the time regarding what we have now,” he said.

Austin ISD is constantly upgrading its 514 bus fleet. There are nine new buses added this year outfitted with all the modern day technology.

“I started transportation about 28 years ago. We used to do routing and different things with a pen and paper,” Hafezizadeh said.

Today, routes are monitored though GPS technology. The district is able to see where buses are, whether they’re stopped or moving, and how fast they’re going in real time. Apps exclusive to district school and parents give them access to the same real-time information.

“We’re able to give them live tracking of where the bus is — how far before it reaches its destination,” Ramirez said.

Roughly 200 of AISD’s fleet would be replaced if voters pass the billion dollar bond package referendum this fall.

It includes nearly $22 million to replace 190 current buses — and add 30 new ones.

The bond would also pay for an automated fleet system.

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