DOE rolls out new bus transportation system

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It could be a smoother ride this school year for thousands of Hawaii’s public school students.

On Monday, the state kicked off a new school bus transportation system.

Families say it’s a convenient and safe way to get to school.

Monday wasn’t just the first day of the first grade for Hayden Rice, but it was also the first time she rode on a school bus.

“I liked, when there was a bump, bump, bump,” Rice said.

It beats the 1.5 mile walk to Webling Elementary School from her house.

“When it’s walking, it takes a long time,” Rice said.

For nearly 200 Aiea students, including Rice and her older brother Nicholas, the school year began with a new mode of transportation.

“Not have to worry about if the car breaks down or something else. The bus is always there, it’s consistent, it’s safe for the kids to get to school,” said Anne Rice, Hayden and Nicholas’ mother.

It’s part of the Department of Education’s “Get on Board” initiative, serving as many as a thousand students at 30 schools who use buses in areas such as Aiea, Pearl City, and Waipahu.

On Monday, the DOE rolled out the first phase, reflecting routes from last year and includes bus restoration to Aiea Heights, Halawa Heights, and Waikele Elementary School areas.

In June of last year, the state announced the elimination of more than 100 bus routes.

“With the service taken away, we were walking down this treacherous road, back and forth in awful weather,” Anne Rice said.

Since then, the DOE has streamlined services and restored a number of the routes. The Department also has more flexibility now in how it awards its bus contracts. There’s also GPS tracking on the buses.

“With that information, we can kind of streamline and create more efficiencies in the system, and efficiencies mean saving money,” said Rep. K. Mark Takai (D-Aiea).

The DOE plans to offer this bus transportation system to all schools across the state by the 2015-2016 school year.

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