Aspen View Public Schools has opened up bidding on its biggest bus service contract and it is a sensible thing to do.
First Student Canada, which has run bus routes in Aspen View since 2002, now must compete to hang on to its 31 routes throughout the division. Opening up these routes to other bidders can help ensure the school division gets the best deal possible and can send a strong message as to the seriousness of First Student’s failures.
First Student has been beset by multiple instances of mechanical issues with busses, focused around the Grassland area. We do not have all the information about why these happened, nor the results of an internal investigation into one case where a wheel fell off a bus. Regardless, these instances are undoubtedly a cause for concern. We do not yet know if this was a motivating factor in opening bidding, but we hope this represents an opportunity for Aspen View to send a strong message for First Student to get its act together and ensure there are no more instances of mechanical problems with busses on route. Or alternatively, find a contractor who will not have these problems.
Bus driver recruitment and route reliability have also been a noted issue with First Student this past year. Although limited division resources and our rural location may make this a challenge for other large contractors as well, hopefully having a competitive bidding process can lead to an arrangement that helps solve this problem.
For a school division with a shrinking budget due to declining enrolment, a move like this also makes fiscal sense. Aspen View can ill afford to not ensure it is getting a good deal on its bus service contract. Although it must ensure it pays enough for its bus services to be top standard, having an open bidding process can help ensure it is getting the best deal to make that happen.
We wait with bated breath to see whether Aspen View finds a contractor that can offer a better deal than First Student, or if First Student remains the division’s biggest bus contractor. But opening up this bidding only stands to benefit the division in trying to make its transportation better.