Charles City Transportation to Improve Safety, Efficiency

Charles City Transportation to Improve Safety, Efficiency with Comet Cruise

CHARLES CITY, IOWA — Bus transportation in the Charles City Community Schools is about to get safer and more efficient starting in 2022. 

The district will begin using Comet Cruise, a new transportation management system. The system will manage and account for students on the bus, provide turn-by-turn directions and reroute stops based on student ridership. It also guides drivers through their pre-trip and post-trip vehicle inspections, helps drivers identify students by showing a picture of them at each stop, and eliminates the need for distracting paper maps and student lists.

“It’s pretty slick,” says Sam Gaston, Assoc. Director of Operations.  “The new system will improve efficiency and safety. If one of our younger passengers does not get on the bus or gets off at the wrong stop, the Comet Cruise system will alert the driver that something is wrong. The new technology will especially help at the beginning of the year, when all of our younger students are learning their new routes and drivers are getting to know our new riders.”

This summer, tablets were mounted near the driver’s seat on each Charles City bus. As students get on and off the bus, they will scan their ID into the Comet Cruise reader. This will log the time and location where each student gets on or off. The system will also be able to report back to the transportation office, where each bus is tracked through a GPS. The transportation office can monitor in real-time where each student is through connected 4G connectivity and a scheduled arrival time for their daily stops. 

If a student attempts to board an incorrect bus or disembark at an unassigned stop, the Comet Crusie system will alert the driver. This allows the driver to manage student safety immediately and reduces the risk that a driver will not recognize a student. 

Comet Cruise onboard screens work on verbal communication when the bus moves, the display screen is blacked out. Once the bus stops at its destination, the screen turns on with the name and photos of the passengers who should get on or off the bus. Drivers can receive messages from the transportation office about their route through audio alerts.

Comet Cruise will also reroute individual destinations based on student ridership. If a student is not being picked up or dropped off, the bus route will automatically adjust based on the system's most efficient way. There is also a digital record of when passengers boarded or left the bus. 

This academic school year, all students will be issued a new student ID card that will be used for the Comet Cruise system. It will also contain a barcode for students to use for the school library, food services, and athletic events. All students are provided with their first ID card at no expense. A replacement must be purchased from the transportation office should it be lost, stolen, or damaged. 

Comet Cruise will be used daily for school transportation routes and extracurricular activities for students riding a bus. It is paid for through one-time federal funds via the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund. For questions about the system, parents are welcome to contact the district’s transportation office at 641-257-6590, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

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