IndyGo will take another crack at picking up some of the transportation needs of Indianapolis Public Schools.
After seeing a pilot project with Emmerich Manuel High School die on the vine, the city bus service is proposing to study the feasibility of serving all IPS high schools, this time with the support of Superintendent Lewis Ferebee.
The Metropolitan Development Commission will be asked Wednesday to approve a $62,500 contract with Indianapolis-based engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff Inc. for the feasibility study. Eighty percent of the contract would be covered by federal funds received by the Metropolitan Planning Organization.
“This isn’t about running yellow school buses out of business,” IndyGo CEO Mike Terry said. “This is about coordinating service options.”
The idea of IndyGo's serving IPS has been kicked around for years, and the Indy Chamber’s recent operational analysis of IPS reiterated the suggestion. Terry said Ferebee is open to the idea of finding efficiencies for both agencies.
Terry said the new study will build on findings by Louisville-based engineering firm Corradino Group Inc., which conducted a two-part study in 2008 and 2009. The first phase confirmed that there was an opportunity for IPS to save money and IndyGo to increase ridership by working together. At the time, busing cost IPS $1,520 per student a year, while IndyGo annual passes cost $330, according to Corradino’s report.
The second phase set out plans for a pilot project with Manuel High School, but the pilot was never executed. “We were not able to get IPS to work with us,” Terry said.
Corradino’s plan called for IPS to set up a “yellow-bus zone” for those students whose residences were clustered around Manuel. Students who lived farther away and were scattered around the city would rely on IndyGo. The school would provide their monthly bus passes.
The Federal Transit Administration says IPS cannot enter a contract with IndyGo to serve students, but IPS can adjust its policies so that IndyGo becomes the default provider for some students.
The next feasibility study will look at where high school students live and how IndyGo services and IPS policies would need to be adjusted, Terry said. “Really a deeper study needs to occur to update the plan we did in 2008,” he said.
Charter schools including Goodwill’s Indy Met and Herron High School already rely on IndyGo, and Terry thinks there are benefits to the students. For instance, if they miss a bus in the morning, they might be late to school but not miss an entire day, he said. They also have a way to get home from after-school activities, or to after-school jobs.
“In a lot of the urban systems, they don’t have the yellow school bus,” he said.