Chicago school buses to be safer, greener

When Chicago Public Schools students return to classes next week, they’ll find their school buses have gone high-tech with newly installed remote GPS technology and in-vehicle mobile data terminals (MDTs), reports the Chicago Sun-Times. Along with a $1 million federal program that will retrofit all older buses in CPS’ 1,600-bus fleet with clean-running technology in the next several months, the changes place the nation’s third-largest school system on the cutting edge of safety and green technology. Only about 25 percent of school buses nationwide have the GPS and MDT technologies, the American School Bus Council (ASBC) estimates. "The GPS system makes your routing significantly more efficient. With Chicago’s implementing this on a large-scale basis, it should cut their mileage down considerably," said ASBC spokesman Bob Riley. "It [also] has a lot of benefits as far as safety for kids, in that the administration at the bus dispatch knows where the bus is at all times." With the MDT, drivers can input information that tracks special-needs students as they board a bus or exit, reducing the potential for such students to be left behind, mistreated, or delivered to the wrong place — as occurred last week on the first day of school in west suburban Plainfield, Ill., where a 6-year-old autistic boy was dropped off at the wrong school and found wandering alone three hours later. In providing the upgrades, CPS is bucking a national trend. Transportation has been one of the hardest hit areas as cash-strapped school districts across the country struggle to cut spending…

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