HCPSS 2023-2024 Transportation
Information on this page is intended to provide HCPSS students, families, staff and stakeholders with important details and updates regarding transportation issues during the 2023-2024 school year. Specific bus stop details can be accessed by signing in to HCPSS Connect Synergy and selecting More Options and then Homeroom / Transportation / POS, or online via the HCPSS Transportation webpage.
See 2023-2024 Start Times for related information
HCPSS Office of Student Transportation Contact Form
A new contact form is available for staff, students and families to report route concerns and provide general feedback so HCPSS Office of Student Transportation staff can review, respond and adjust the routes where appropriate.
Bus Delays, Cancellations & Suspensions
Applicable families can opt to be alerted to delays through the Zum app. Effective Sept. 26, HCPSS will resume issuing text and email alerts when bus delays of more than 15 minutes occur, including for routes operated by Zum Services.
09/26/2023: Bus 306 morning service only canceled for Patuxent Valley and Murray Hill middle schools
Suspended Bus Routes
At this time, all suspended bus routes have been restored.
Updates & Messages
- 09/24/2023: HCPSS Student Transportation Update
- 09/20/2023: Superintendent Transportation Update
- 09/19/2023: Transportation & Start Times Update
- 09/18/2023: Transportation & Start Times Update
- 09/18/2023: Board Presentation: Plan to Support On-Time Arrival of School Buses
- 09/18/2023: Board Memo: Plan to Support On-Time Arrival of School Buses
- 09/17/2023: New HCPSS Bus Pickup Times Beginning Wednesday, September 20
- 09/16/2023: HCPSS Student Transportation Continuous Improvements & Start Times Resources
- 09/15/2023: HCPSS Pickup and Drop-Off Time Clarification & Online Information
- 09/14/2023: Restored Bus Routes and Other Transportation Updates
- 09/13/2023: New School Start Times Effective September 20
- 09/09/2023: Superintendent Transportation Update: Additional Routes Restored
- 09/08/2023: Superintendent Transportation Update
- 09/07/2023: Zum Transportation Mobile App Launched
- 09/07/2023: Superintendent’s Report, Board of Education Meeting
- 09/05/2023: Athletics and Transportation Updates
- 09/04/2023: Superintendent Transportation Update – Restoring Suspended Routes and Communicating Late Buses
- 09/03/2023: Superintendent Transportation Update – Several Routes Restored
- 08/31/2023: Superintendent’s Report, Board of Education Meeting
- 08/30/2023: Superintendent Remarks, HCPSS Transportation Press Conference
Frequently Asked Questions
Additional answers to frequently asked questions can be found on the HCPSS Help site, including those related to general Transportation and 2023-2024 Transportation & Requests. More FAQs specific to the Zum app also are available online.
Beginning of Year Transportation Issues
How are families notified when buses run late?
In addition to applicable families being alerted to delays through the Zum app, significant delays (more than 15 minutes) for non-Zum buses that are reported by the bus contractors will be texted to impacted parents/guardians.
What went wrong with HCPSS transportation to start the school year?
For the last six months, the Superintendent and system leaders met weekly with the HCPSS transportation and operations team to receive updates on the implementation timeline and strategies to mitigate the impact of the driver shortages and how HCPSS would prepare for the start of the school year. There were several errors that could have been mitigated and were not, including:
- Errors in the data and routes provided to contractors causing drivers to become lost during their student pick-ups and drop-offs.
- Contractor issues with the technology provided to some drivers for routing assistance.
- Bus route information provided to some contractors was inconsistent with what was provided to families and schools.
- Many families were not provided with accurate bus numbers that matched the numbers on the side of the buses which caused great confusion for our students and families.
- Adequate stress testing was not conducted in order to test the routes so failures could be identified and corrected.
- Communication with schools and families regarding individual bus route delays was not done effectively.
Combined, these challenges led to our students, families and staff needing to make many adjustments.
When did the Superintendent know that transportation was not going to go as planned?
For the last six months, the Superintendent and system leaders met weekly with the HCPSS transportation and operations team to receive updates on the implementation timeline and strategies to mitigate the impact of the driver shortages and how HCPSS would prepare for the start of the school year. Unfortunately, several errors have since been discovered that could have been mitigated and were not brought to the attention of the Superintendent until Monday morning, after the morning buses began experiencing delays.
Can the transportation problems be attributed to the changes in school start times?
This year we were able to adjust school start times to provide students with the extra sleep they need to ensure they are able to come to school ready and able to learn. On April 15, 2021, the Board of Education directed the Superintendent to review and evaluate the school start times and prepare a recommendation regarding new start times for submission to the Board of Education. The Board voted on this change Feb. 23, 2023.
The compression of the start times to support our goal of starting schools later has taken out any slack that we used to have in our routes and it is not realistically possible to keep buses for Tier 2 and Tier 3 on schedule due to the tight turnaround.
As we implemented new start times, we also knew that operating with 85–95 driver vacancies like we did the last several years was not a sustainable model to provide transportation as the new schedules would not allow for “double-backs.” So while we could manage in the past with a high number of vacancies, we can no longer do that which is why the 20 last-minute vacancies this week led to the temporary suspension of those bus routes, many of which have been restored.
Adjustments are being considered to make slight adjustments to start times (no more than 10 minutes) and pickup times to be able to successfully complete the routes on time. As noted in a previous answer, adequate stress testing of the routes would have enable the system to make these adjustments prior to the start of the school year.
Will school start times have to be changed to fix the ongoing problems?
While we have been able to address some issues such as key distribution, egress routes from the bus facilities and times that bus drivers are to report to their first stop, we continue to experience significant delays during both the morning and afternoon bus runs for our Tier 2 and Tier 3 schools. The compression of the start times to support our goal of starting schools later has taken out any slack that we used to have in our routes and it is not realistically possible to keep buses for Tier 2 and Tier 3 on schedule due to the tight turnaround.
HCPSS Superintendent Martirano recently announced a shift in start times, effective Sept. 20. Full details can be found online.
Was prekindergarten able to begin as scheduled and with transportation provided?
Prekindergarten programs began on Aug. 31. In order to support the opening of pre-K programs amidst the transportation challenges, we have put additional measures in place:
- Contracted an additional 15 buses to be on standby to cover the 15 half-day specialized routes and deployed staff to each of the 24 schools with half-day programs as a resource to the principal to assist with supervision of students, supervision of loading and unloading of buses, or any other service that the school leader would find helpful.
- Continue to register students every day during these first weeks of school, as we do every year. These students will receive bus information as soon as registration is complete, and they will begin transportation at that time.
- Established a dedicated email address and phone number for families of pre-K students to report issues.
Why did some bus routes have to be suspended after the first day of school?
As we implemented new start times, we also knew that operating with 85–95 driver vacancies like we did the last several years was not a sustainable model to provide transportation as the new schedules would not allow for “double-backs.” While we could manage in the past with a high number of vacancies, we can no longer do that, which is why last-minute vacancies to the temporary suspension of those bus routes.
At this time, all temporarily suspended bus routes have been restored.
Can other contractors take on more or all of Zum Transportation’s bus routes?
No, HCPSS cannot reassign routes that were awarded through a proper solicitation, bid process, and contract. All local and existing operators had an opportunity to bid on the routes awarded to Zum Transportation and Tip Top Transportation, but Tip Top was the only local contractor to do so. Routes are currently being re-assigned due to HCPSS exercising a contract remedy and removing routes for nonperformance; however, the routes which have been run remain with Zum.
For the past several years, many of our contractors have felt the impact of the nationwide bus driver shortage. HCPSS has operated with 85-95 driver vacancies for several years. All contractors with contracts had an opportunity to give back routes which had not been fulfilled in prior years in order to ensure performance within their staffing capabilities for the current year.
We are grateful to the local transportation contractors who have worked with us through the weekend to prepare and restore several routes that had to be suspended. Specifically, Woodlawn Motor Coach, Tip Top Transportation Inc., MINA Transportation, Y&L Transportation Inc., Glen G. Whitehead Transportation, and Viennas Transportation.
Do special education buses have the required attendants on board?
While the vast majority of our special education buses had hired attendants to be on board, Zum Transportation did not have the number of necessary attendants to cover all special education buses. In response, school system staff are serving as adult supports on Zum buses and vans until such time Zum is able to secure the staff they are responsible for hiring.
When can families expect the Zum Transportation app to be available?
The Zum app is available for parent/guardian use. Additional details are provided in:
What data was shared with Zum Transportation for their app and communication tools and how is data privacy being maintained?
HCPSS’ contract with Zum Transportation contains student data privacy provisions so that they may effectively transport students, and the use of their mobile application and communications tools may be accurate. This type of data sharing is common with transportation contractors. The agreement clarifies that Zum will not use this information in any way other than what was specified in the agreement in accordance with applicable laws and will not sell information.