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Posted on Thu, Apr 29, 2010 : 6:02 a.m.

Ann Arbor school administrator: Busing consolidation cheaper than privatizing

By David Jesse

Joining a countywide busing system run by the Washtenaw Intermediate School District is cheaper than privatizing, an administrator told the Ann Arbor school board Wednesday night.

Hiring a private company to run the district’s busing operations would cost $7,019,214, said Robert Allen, the district’s deputy superintendent for operations. Joining with five of the county’s other traditional districts to form a consolidated busing system would cost the district $6,578,274.

Both those options are cheaper than the district’s current busing system, which costs $8,718,669, Allen said.

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Ann Arbor administrators appear to favor a countywide busing system.

The savings under the WISD option could increase if more districts join the group. Currently, five of the county’s 10 traditional school districts, including Ann Arbor, have expressed strong support for the plan. Two to three more are leaning toward joining, officials said.

The board hasn’t taken any action on the plan. It could vote on making the move as early as its May 12 meeting.

Under the plan, districts would consolidate all their busing operations - from routing to maintenance - under one entity run by the WISD. Savings would come from reducing the number of bus drivers needed across the county, reducing the overhead and administration, and in some cases, reducing wages for the drivers.

Allen said under the WISD plan, drivers would have an average hourly rate of $14.70. They currently have an average hourly rate of $16.55.

Savings would also accumulate by eliminating the number of miles a bus runs without students on it as the bus travels to pick them up. In Ann Arbor’s case, 40 percent of the miles driven each year are those empty bus miles.

Ann Arbor is exploring transportation changes as part of its plan to reduce its budget for next school year by $20 million.

The district went to the current bus drivers union to negotiate an agreement to get savings, but the drivers voted down that agreement, Allen said.

If the district went with the WISD plan, many of the routes currently used would still be used in the fall, Superintendent Todd Roberts said.

Roberts said he liked the WISD option over the alternatives.

“I believe that this is both the best short-term and long-term way to sustain the high quality transportations services we currently have at a cost we can maintain.”

David Jesse covers K-12 education for He can be reached at or at 734-623-2534.



Sat, May 15, 2010 : 7:38 a.m.

The board hasnt taken any action on the plan. It could vote on making the move as early as its May 12 meeting. Uh huh. It is May 15 and no one has made a move yet. Why? Because WISD is now realizing the mammoth undertaking it will take to lay off nearly 400 people in a total of 5 districts that want to consolidate with WISD and WISD will rehire what? Half? No one is going to take a hit of more then 10% off their pay if they have been making more then $16 for X amount of years. WISD I think has bitten off more then they can chew and hasn't a clue how to consolidate these 5 districts. I can see one big mess come September when parents ask, where is my childs bus? Why is it late? In Ann Arbor? We will come back for you. I don't know if we will under WISD. WISD is suppose to have it all figured out by September. Going to be interesting.


Thu, May 13, 2010 : 8:09 p.m.

@Steve Norton What details there are (and this "plan" has few details (one of it's real problems)), can be seen in Mr. Allen's powerpoint presentation to the board, here: You said: "Some of the biggest savings come from consolidating fleet maintenance and fuel, and sharing bus garaging so that buses are closer to the neighborhoods they serve (thus driving fewer miles empty)." In fact, the biggest savings by far is from the drastic reduction in wages and benefits. Using Allen's numbers, there is a 26% reduction ("savings") from reduced wages and benefits. By comparison, there is only a 4% reduction from 'fuel, parts and supplies'; and a 6% reduction from 'other miscellaneous' spending. Wages and benefits aside, the reduction in transportation costs, i.e., the operational savings, is $630,000. That equals about 15% of the total projected $4.25 million savings. These operational areas account for the smallest savings that consolidation has to offer, not the biggest.

Stephen Lange Ranzini

Mon, May 3, 2010 : 3:30 a.m.

Could someone explain to me why working with AATA to do this isn't an option? In theory it should save more money. Students in Europe typically take public transportation to school and it works just fine.


Thu, Apr 29, 2010 : 8:26 p.m.

Thanks, David - I was wondering if perhaps AAPS was not forthcoming with the details because they weren't going to make parents happy...

Steve Norton, MIPFS

Thu, Apr 29, 2010 : 1:22 p.m.

I don't know details, but my understanding is that things may not change that much for students. Some of the biggest savings come from consolidating fleet maintenance and fuel, and sharing bus garaging so that buses are closer to the neighborhoods they serve (thus driving fewer miles empty just to get from the South State garage to outlying neighborhoods, as mentioned in the story). The current central facility is not very efficient for a district that is as geographically spread out as AAPS is. The routing changes will be linked to the garaging changes, I believe.

David Jesse

Thu, Apr 29, 2010 : 11:59 a.m.

@Beth: They don't have the routing done yet. That's why there' no details.


Thu, Apr 29, 2010 : 11:25 a.m.

I'm still waiting to hear what consolidating buses would actually look like for the students who ride them each day. Why is it so hard to find out the details?