By Ritu Narayan
As the 2020 – 2021 school year comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on what this unique year has meant for kids, parents, teachers, schools and the education system as a whole. Students and teachers have spent much of the year away from the classroom, learning and teaching virtually, making this a digital inflection point and a once in a generation opportunity to reimagine the system as we know it. It starts the minute the kids walk out their front door and doesn’t end until they are safely back at home.
Student transportation is the largest mass transit system in the U.S., yet it’s an antiquated model — in desperate need of an overhaul. The 80-year-old ‘one bus fits all’ system doesn’t work for today’s families, nor today’s needs.
Today we’re thrilled to introduce Zūm’s fully integrated, real time platform for student transportation purpose-built for the needs of kids and the expectations of their families. Our new comprehensive service for student transportation is now available to schools and districts nationwide.
We’ve been on a mission to reimagine student transportation for some time, and have spent countless hours partnering with districts, drivers, parents, and students to create a holistic solution that meets the collective needs of all stakeholders. The result is a fundamentally new way to transport students safely, reliably, and sustainably with increased visibility and personalized care.
We launched Zūm to modernize school transportation, in service of solving real problems for parents and their kids. It was born out of a very personal challenge of getting my two children to and from school and other activities, while working a demanding, full-time job. We know this challenge is felt universally and generationally, and it’s what inspires us to come to work every day — to continuously raise the bar for student transportation, drive positive change in communities, and reduce the industry’s carbon footprint.
Simplifying the system for districts
The new platform marks a significant change in our model. One that addresses systemic shifts that need to happen in operations for school districts, who can now rely on Zūm as an end-to-end resource to manage daily operations, track and plan vehicle use and driver profiles, and analyze performance and service data. Our service reduces costs for districts by deploying the best type of vehicle for each route including buses, cars, and vans. This multi-vehicle approach helps solve current industry-wide challenges like schedule, unpredictability and vehicle underutilization.
The range of options we provide, including electric vehicles of all sizes, also reduces student commute times. And when coupled with our marketplace, the result is greater in-fleet efficiency and optimization.
Holistic support for drivers
With Zūm, every driver has access to an app, available on mobile and tablet, that provides real-time route updates, personalized information on every student’s needs, and the ability to report and resolve issues in real time. Because the entire platform is connected in the cloud, the real time visibility extends to district operations and families. This means more personalized care for every student, faster service, and quick resolution for any issues.
Visibility and control for families
A cornerstone of our service is direct communication with families. The Zūm mobile app provides ongoing visibility into route updates, a child’s location, and the driver’s profile. Families can also use the app to share changes in schedule or pickup location, preferences, and feedback, as well as speak with the Zūm team directly at any time. More transparency, more control and better communication at every step in the process means families can worry less about how their kids are getting to and from school. This emphasis on personalized service and care is especially important for families where a child has a disability or special needs.
Meeting the sustainability needs of tomorrow
As we look at ways we can bring positive changes to communities, an important area we’ve identified is addressing our industry’s impact on the environment. Sustainability is a core tenent of our approach and we’re committed to helping districts address the challenges imposed by current internal combustion engine bussing. Our multi-modal approach and cloud-based technology will make it possible to drive widespread adoption of electric buses, move toward zero-emission student transportation, and positively impact the planet.
Solving the transportation dilemma for districts larger and small
This isn’t simply a vision for Zūm. These changes are happening today. The Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is one of the first to adopt district-wide Zūm technology for all their transportation needs. OUSD started using Zūm when its students returned to the classroom this Spring and is already experiencing the benefits.
Seventy percent of OUSD’s students using its transportation system previously spent more than one hour on a bus traveling to school each way, which has dropped to just 3% since Zūm implemented new, flexible routes. Inefficient routes led to long travel times for students and unexpected delays, which had a trickle-down impact across the district and community. For example, teachers have to slow down an entire class when a group of students are late, parents must juggle irregular drop off and pick up times, and drivers face inconsistent schedules.
Zūm’s safe and modern service has led to a significant increase in on-time arrivals, shorter student ride times, and reduced customer support calls.
“Transportation is a massive expense for our school district, and we needed a better solution that would provide enhanced safety and care, create driver efficiencies, and enable visibility into day-to-day operations with a more modern approach,” said Kimberly Raney, Executive Director of Transportation and Logistics at Oakland Unified School District. “Partnering with Zūm, allows OUSD to save thousands of hours of travel time for students, and increase visibility into our operations for parents, students, teachers, and administrators.”
Zūm has been driving the industry forward since 2015 when we first launched to provide alternative transportation options for families. Throughout our journey, we discovered that solving the problem required a more holistic approach to the entire system. This is a big challenge and we see a huge opportunity to impact real change — not only for parents and students, but across the entire school transportation ecosystem. Today Zūm is defining a new era of safe, reliable, efficient and sustainable transportation, built for the students, parents, drivers, and districts who need it most.
As we look ahead to the next school year, we know students and parents have a lot on their minds. We’re here to take the stress out of a key part of it — getting kids to and from school. For parents and communities interested in learning more about Zūm, or if you’d like to join our team as we reimagine student transportation, visit us at www.ridezum.com. If you are a school district planning for your students to return to campus, we’d love to talk. Reach out to us at 1-855-RIDEZUM.