May 24, 2017

“I just want to keep driving and driving! These buses handle so much better, they’re a delight.”

That’s driver Ronald Johnston’s professional evaluation of Tukwila School District’s 10 new Blue Bird school buses, the majority of which are hitting the road for the first time this week to pick up and drop off students. While the Transportation staff all agree that they’re truly riding in style now, the gleaming new yellow machines have many benefits beyond their aesthetic appeal.

“Who knew new buses could be so exciting?” said Transportation Director Kathy Breault. “Well, I mean, we all did in Transportation, but this is really good news for the entire district.”

Until now, the Tukwila bus fleet comprised used vehicles, and the maintenance expenses were beginning to cost more than the buses themselves. After careful analysis and prioritization from the business office, it became clear that new buses made good fiscal sense.

First, the new buses put the district back on the Washington state depreciation schedule; for the first 13 years of a bus’ service life, the state reimburses the district a portion of the purchase price of the bus until it’s paid off. The goal for most school districts is to capitalize on those state dollars by keeping its entire fleet on the depreciation schedule.

Second, the new buses will be more reliable and operationally efficient. The district was left scrambling several times this year when its older buses broke down, resulting in rented vehicles. The new buses each hold about 15 more students, meaning more space on crowded routes and/or fewer routes in total. And don’t let the bright yellow color fool you: The new buses are actually pretty green, with a special diesel filter that collects many more particulates, stopping them from releasing into the air.

One more benefit: The seats in the front rows of the new buses have seatbelts, which will be an important feature for transporting preschool-age riders to and from the Birth to Kindergarten Center when it opens in two years.

Ready to be wowed? Enjoy these school-bus glamor shots (bet you never thought you’d read that sentence)—too bad they don’t convey the new-bus smell!