Plum school board OKs new bus-route plotting software

| Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, 5:03 p.m.

Scott Mergen will have a new tool this summer when he begins planning school bus routes.

Mergen, the Plum School District's transportation supervisor, will have software that has the capability of planning the bus routes based upon a variety of factors, including bus capacities, special equipment needs, ride time and mileage, according to the website for U.S. Computing Inc. of Columbia, S.C., the company selected last week by the Plum School Board to provide the system.

The board voted to approve a $49,650 contract with the company.

Plum School Board member Tom McGough, chairman of the transportation committee said the software is a “value.”

“With tens of thousands of road miles that we transport students from school to school, this (software) will optimize that,” McGough said.

“It will give us the best route.”

Mergen said during a recent transportation committee meeting that the software also has the capability to modify routes in the event of situations including a hazardous road condition.

Mergen also said with the new software, the district's buses will have GPS.

“It will allow us to track the buses,” Mergen said.

“We will know each time the (bus) door opens and lets students on and off.”

“It will tell us where the buses are,” McGough said.

“It is good from a safety perspective.”

Superintendent Timothy Glasspool said the GPS feature will make it possible to track potential missed stops.

“If a parent says the bus didn't come, we can track it,” Glasspool said.

Mergen said the software also will aid him through the process of redistricting students.

District officials have said they plan to work toward having redistricting in place for the 2015 school year, when the new Holiday Park Elementary School opens.

McGough said the software will give the district three advantages.

“We will be safer, quicker and less expensive (with transportation),” McGough said.

“We are looking at maximizing the (bus) runs and being more effective,” Glasspool said.

In a related transportation matter, the board also voted to advertise for prices for two-way radios to be placed in the school buildings and on buses.

Mergen said he communicates with drivers by calling their cellphones.

At times, Mergen has problems reaching a driver if the cellphone doesn't function in an area along a route.

“If we have radios and I make an announcement, everyone will hear it,” Mergen said.

Glasspool said two-way radios also would be valuable in the buildings.

“(Staff members) can communicate with each other if the phones are down,” Glasspool said. “It is a school safety issue.”

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753 or

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