“Providing Public School Bus GPS Information to Parents in Boston”
In the winter of 2010, severe snowstorms in Boston resulted in adverse road conditions and traffic delays, leaving parents worried about their children riding home on public school buses. During the blizzards, Chris Osgood, Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics (MONUM), was at the Boston Public Schools Call Center relaying the GPS locations of school buses to concerned parents. Chris and his colleagues soon realized that allowing parents and caretakers to view
this information on a smartphone or computer would be a key improvement to the system, especially in critical weather situations. A year after the precipitating snowstorm, MONUM — which pilots experiments in the areas of civic engagement, education, and improved service delivery in Boston, using cross-sector collaboration to solve issues within cities — partnered with Boston Public Schools, the GPS Provider Zonar, Code for America, and, later, Vermonster to create a free app that delivered needed information to parents in a safe and expedited way. Once it initiated the collaboration, MONUM provided critical support, such as coordinating beta testing and overseeing logistics for proposals, which alleviated some of the responsibilities faced by BPS representatives who were busy managing daily transportation issues, eventually ensuring continued collaborative success. After the first version of the app had been developed by Code for America, MONUM worked with Boston Public Schools to identify testing groups composed of BPS parents and took charge of writing proposals and providing feedback on each round of testing. After several rounds of testing, when seeking to scale the project to the entire city, MONUM managed the Request for Quotation process to find a developer to build a more robust platform. Today, “Where’s My School Bus?” provides Boston parents with real-time public school bus locations of their children, and city officials report that the app is used by parents 1,000 times a day.