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Tracking units set to go into Toledo buses
Devices give precise location of vehicles

Toledo Balde | March 17, 2005

Toledo Public Schools officials hope global positioning satellite systems, cameras, and new radios could be installed beginning this summer on the school district's 185 yellow buses and other vehicles.

"The main purpose for doing this is safety," said Dan Burns, the district's chief business manager.

"I also look at this as effective management of a large organization's fleet."

Global positioning systems, commonly known as GPS, will allow school officials to pinpoint the location of any of the district's school buses, vans, and maintenance vehicles within 100 feet of their position at any given time.

In addition, they will be able to determine if the vehicle's engine is running, its speed, rate of acceleration or deceleration, and whether doors are open.

The school system, which transports just under 9,000 students on yellow school buses everyday, will pay about $350,000 for the new systems.

Mr. Burns said bids for the project would go out over the next two months.

He said it would take about two years to outfit all of the buses with the new system.

Joe Kahl, director of transportation for the Toledo school system, said each bus would have a two-way radio and at least three cameras.

Some Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority buses, which carry about 10,830 TPS school children to and from school, are also equipped with cameras and GPS systems.

Mr. Kahl noted that the GPS systems would primarily be used to locate broken-down buses, but it could also offer a measure of security for drivers and students alike.

"One of the top three targets for terrorism is schools and school buses," Mr. Kahl said. "This is going to give everyone a better feeling."

Mr. Kahl said it is unlikely that a school bus would be hijacked, but he noted that it has happened elsewhere in the country.

In November, 2003, a man hijacked a Miami school bus with 38 students aboard.

The man was arrested a short time later and no one was injured during the incident.

Other school systems began equipping buses with cameras and GPS systems years ago.

In New Haven, Conn., for example, the 20,000-student district began using the technology in 2003.

Detroit Public Schools has GPS installed on 90 out of 400 buses, said Mattie Majors, a district spokesman.

"We are hoping to get to 100 percent by the fall," she said.

Despite safety and possible economic advantages, Mr. Kahl acknowledged that some TPS bus drivers are wary of the technology.

"They are a little apprehensive about the idea that Big Brother is watching," he said.


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