By Mark Hallum
The City of New York has acquired the 1,000 fleet Reliant Transportation school bus company as part its attempts to bring the logistics of busing of public school students under one umbrella group for oversight.
After incorporating NYCSBUS (New York City School Bus Umbrella Services) as a nonprofit to manage drivers and other assets, the Department of Education believes it will have greater control over new acquisitions such as this, but doubts have risen in the past around the notion of the city handling it’s own busing rather than enlisting private contractors.
Reliant Transportation mainly specializes in connecting 950 special needs students to schools, which accounts for up to 10% of the DOE’s school age busing network, according to the mayor’s office.
“We are doing everything we can to guarantee safe, fast, and reliable bus service for the students who need it most,” de Blasio said in a statement. “This agreement delivers on that promise and makes a lasting investment in our school communities for years to come.”
Rumors that the city would be acquiring bus companies from contractors came as a surprise to some in the industry who questioned how the DOE would begin to manage the logistics on their own, especially after spending up to $700 million on contracts through June despite a $827 million in budgetary cuts to the education department.
Instead of getting paid through June, however, funding was cut off to bus companies in March not long after the city Comptroller Scott Stringer issued a letter pointing out the fact the DOE was still spending money on transporting children despite schools being closed due to COVID-19.
The timing of the letter and funds being swiftly cut off was coincidental, according to a source.
Corey Muirhead, who runs Logan Bus Company, told amNewYork Metro in May the funding was suddenly cut off in March, leaving the business no choice but to layoff employees who represent up to 16,000 jobs in the city.
According to the mayor’s office, NYCSBUS will offering jobs to all the employees of Reliant and allow for organized labor negotiate a collective bargaining agreement.
“So many of our students rely on yellow bus service to get safely to and from school, and this is an important step in securing that service for our students in the years to come,” Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said in a statement. “This is a long-term investment that will gradually phase in and provide greater stability and oversight in school bus service in the years ahead.”
The deal between the city and Reliant is scheduled to formally close by the first quarter of 2021 and will until then be under contract from the city.
Correction note: an original version of this story said city Comptroller Stringer issued an audit on DOE spending. It was, in fact, only a letter.