ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The first day of school is just over a week away, and APS is hoping to avoid all of those school bus headaches the district saw last year. This school year is going to be different because the district itself is running a chunk of the bus routes.
“Last year, was a bit of a surprise,” said Ruben Hendrickson, chief operations officer for APS. Some of the bus issues included delays, overcrowded buses and a driver shortage.
“We’re now in the bus business, so that’s different,” Hendrickson said about this new school year.
“We’re basically taking over Durham’s routes,” he explained. Longtime private bus contractor Durham Bus Services made its last stop in the Albuquerque Public Schools system.
“They are in it for profit,” Hendrickson said, explaining that the company couldn’t make enough money operating with APS. Two other bus contractors also left the district, he said.
APS will now operate 125 buses at 62 schools, roughly a third of the more than 400 buses serving APS students. APS said it doesn’t plan to take over for other bus contractors, but the district could step in if a contractor is no longer willing to provide the service.
“We intend to give basically the same sorta service that Durham gave in the past,” Hendrickson said.
“We’re looking at a seamless transition, and so far, we picked up a lot of their drivers. We hired many of their employees,” Hendrickson said. “We’ve leased the same facility they were out of. We bought their buses,” he said.
APS also said it’s in much better shape with hiring bus drivers compared to last year when the district was short approximately 40 drivers. APS is still hiring drivers and aims to offer competitive driver salaries in the market.
“The first couple of weeks are always chaotic. I don’t know if we can prevent the chaos from occurring, but we do try to mitigate the effects,” he added.
Hendrickson said it costs between $16 million and $18 million a year to operate the district’s buses, pay its drivers and to buy fuel.
The first day of school for APS is Thursday, August 13.
Elementary school students whose home address is one mile or more from the school are eligible to ride the bus. For middle school students, the requirement is 1.5 miles. APS said it’s two or more miles for high school students.
Questions about bus service can be directed to the APS Transportation Office at 880-3989.