Serious Concerns with the 2019 SFUSD Transportation Contract put out for Bid (RFP)

Status 2/11/20: The School Board voted to award a 1-year extension to First Student for the school busing contract and stated that they intend to put the bid out once again next year. So the entire process needs to be repeated, except for the part of the contract the district awarded to a rideshare company. The School Board also voted to give part of the contract (Scope Of Work 3 - SOW#3) to a rideshare company, which it seems will likely be using independent contract drivers using their own personal vehicles - most likely noncommercial drivers well. We brought all our concerns about this to the School Board, but they voted to approve the ridshare contract (click here and watch the video - Feb 11, 2020).


Status 11/18/19: RESULTS OF SOLICITATION School Transportation Services RFP No. STS-2019: All interested parties are advised to please take notice that pursuant to Public Contract Code Section 20111 (a) (2), the San Francisco School District hereby exercises it discretion to REJECT ALL PROPOSALS for Transportation Services RFP (RFP No. STS-2019) SOW # 1 (20 - PASSENGER SCHOOL BUSES AND WHEELCHAIR ACCESSIBLE SCHOOL BUSES ) & SOW # 2 (72 + PASSENGER SCHOOL BUSES) and will resolicit the services at a later date.

All interested parties are advised that the San Francisco Unified School District has completed the best value evaluation for the School Transportation Services RFP (RFP No. STS-2019) and intends to award the contract for SOW # 3 (10- PASSENGER VANS OR LIGHT DUTY VEHICLES) to: ZUM SERVICES, INC.


Request for Proposals (RFP) - CLICK HERE TO LINK TO ALL THE POSTED DOCUMENTS ON SFUSD's WEBSITE- scroll down the page and look for the "School Transportation Services RFP No. STS-2019")

Below is a more detailed history of many of our concerns with the 2019 Transportation Contract; which, it appears, will be put out again in 2020 - stay tuned.

Page Index (click to go to section or just scroll down)

Overview of Issues and Concerns with RFP

Summary of other issues of concern

Additional Concerns (e.g. high cost damages)

Splitting the Transportation Contract into 3 Parts The use of 10-Passenger non-conforming vehicles (passenger vans)
More information regarding the safety of school buses and school bus drivers Media (videos of board meetings and rallies, articles, radio et cetera) The heavy use of technology on all buses - 4G Live streaming Video/Audio, data logging et cetera
Allowing potential transportation contractors to have properties up to 15 miles outside of San Francisco (Peninsula) Using of rideshare companies to transport small children People to Contact at SFUSD with your Concerns

The below picture, and flyer, are from a rally at the Board of Education on October 29, 2019. Some of our concerns are addressed in the signs and slogans. Please scroll down this page (or use index) for more details, links to articles, bid documents and other information that will be posted as it becomes available. Thank you for your concern!

(photo courtesy of Judy Greenspan)

Thanks to all our supporters (click below links to go to their sites): Our brothers and sisters from the Sheet Metal Workers Local 104, United Educators of San Francisco (UESF), San Francisco Labor Council, Steve Zeltzer with the Labor Video Project, San Francisco Living Wage Coalition, City College of San Francisco Faculty Union (AFT 2121), ANSWER Coalition SF; and all the Parents, Children , Educators, and other organizations and members from the community that came out in support.

Click Here for More Rally Pictures.


Issues and Concerns with SFUSD's Request for Proposals (RFP)

SFUSD put out a Request For Proposals (a.k.a. RFP) for the transportation contract on August 21, 2019 (click here to link to the posted documents on SFUSD's website - scroll down the page and look for the "School Transportation Services RFP No. STS-2019"). On the positive side, the RFP did keep most of our prevailing wages and benefits - which has been the case since the 1970's - however, the protection/guarantees for the transportation managers (TMs - who work to resolve issues in the field - when there are problems on the buses) were omitted. Also, these prevailing wage and benefits protections do not extend to those who would drive non-conforming vehicles (white vans and/or rideshare vehicles - more on this below). With that being said, the RFP made many other, significant changes to the current transportation contract (click here for a link to the initial RFP document - pdf format), which raise serious concerns for our union workforce, the safety of the students and many other issues to be discussed below:

1) SFUSD has proposed to split the contract into 3 parts. This will be the first time this has ever been done (in the event that the parts are awarded to separate contractors) and is akin to contracting out the work that we have done for over 45 years. This would be devastating to our union workforce and could pit us against lower paid, non-union, non-certificated workers, depending on how the parts are distributed and awarded. The 3 parts are: (1) Large transit sized school buses, (2) small 20-passenger school buses - wheelchair buses, and (3) 10-passenger light-duty vans - non-school buses. Please read the RFP for the details. Furthermore, it is hard to see how splitting a contract into parts will result in cost savings and increased efficiency. Most likely costs will go up and efficiency go down. Our workforce is also highly experienced and most are trained on all the equipment - in fact it is a requirement for all new hires. This gives us the ability to fill in for each other and assist when difficult situations arise. Splitting the contract into parts will reduce the ability to collaborate as 3 separate companies could be involved.

(Excerpt from RFP)

2) The use of 10-passenger vans and concerns about safety. Although the initial RFP only calls for 10 of these vans, we are concerned that this number will increase and displace schools buses. The drivers of these vehicles are not legally required to have school bus certificates and the vehicles are not required to adhere to the same safety standards that school buses must. When the RFP was first put it out SFUSD at least required that certificated school buses drivers (or SPAB certificated) operate the vans. This requirement was later rescinded (click here for the addendum - pdf). The RFP also does not guarantee that these driver receive our prevailing wages and benefits and instead receive competitive wages - whatever that means.

(Excerpt from RFP)

Our union has serious concerns about the safety of these vehicles as compared to the utilization of school buses with certificated, experienced, drivers behind the wheel.

"The school bus industry is entirely based on safety, down to the color of the yellow bus, which was chosen after studies showed it had the highest visibility in low light conditions.

All the laws, regulations, multiple agency oversight, extensive vehicle inspections, extensive driver monitoring and training are put in place to ensure that school buses, and those who drive them, provide the safest transportation for school children and the system works well.

A standard passenger van cannot legally stop traffic so that cars wait for children to board. A standard passenger van is not recognized as a vehicle transporting small children and that extra care should be taken. A standard driver has nowhere near the level of training and continuing scrutiny that a certificated school bus driver has.

I feel the use of these vans will set a dangerous precedent, especially if the use of these vehicles continues to increase in place of school buses. San Francisco is a very congested, difficult, and hazardous city to drive in. The use of standard vans, and drivers, will endanger children.

I ask that the board reconsider this decision." (Excerpt from a speech given to the SFUSD Board of Education by one of our drivers - video below).

More information regarding the safety of school buses and school bus drivers:

NOTE: It should also be mentioned that SFUSD is currently contracting with rideshare companies for kids (on a limited basis for now - but this could increase) to transport small children - bit more on this below (click here to view one of the contracts).


3) Some other issues of concern: are the heavy use of costly technology on all buses called for in the transportation contract, allowing potential transportation contractors to have properties up to 15 miles outside of San Francisco (on the Peninsula), SFUSD's use of rideshare companies to transport small children (not part of RFP - but still a concern) and additional concerns.

The heavy use of technology on all buses, including five, live-streaming, 4G, Surveillance Video/Audio Cameras and other technologies. The RFP calls for a lot of technology on the buses, with the contractor having to cover the cost of this, and which will most likely increase costs to SFUSD: live streaming, 4G surveillance cameras on all the buses (currently it is just 10% of the fleet and not thought to be live streaming or audio - camera buses are switched to problem routes), removable tablet systems for the drivers, digital radio systems, Samasara and other GPS live tracking systems, digital student logging systems and so on. Some of this technology may prove useful, but could also be seen as excessive and intrusive; and hopefully the parents will be notified and be able to participate in this process. Some of us feel strongly that much of these funds could be better directed to hiring paras/aids to ride the buses and work directly with the children that are having difficulties instead of monitoring and recording them. It is often difficult to get the district to fund a para-professional to be assigned to a run. Paying a para-professional also keeps the money with district employees (who desperately need it) instead of sending the money to outside technology companies.

"Many drivers and others have commented on the Transportation RFP and raised many concerns with the districts plans for home-to-school transportation.

I would like to bring up an additional concern regarding the heavy use of technology on the buses. The RFP calls for all buses (100%) to be outfitted with five, 4G live streaming video and audio cameras both on the inside and outside and with the capability to store this data. The RFP also calls for RFID (or similar) card swipe readers so that students can be electronically registered. The buses are to be equipped with more advanced live tracking software, tablets for driver instructions, digital radios and other logging and data gathering technological equipment. While some of this technology may be helpful, some may be overly intrusive. The contractors that bid on the RFP have to factor in the costs of all this technology and it is hard to see how this will help to save SFUSD money. In my opinion it seems that the district could spend some of this money on bus monitors or paras to ride on the difficult routes and work directly with the children that are having problems instead of just recording and monitoring them.

Currently, the fleet is required to have 10% of the buses equipped with cameras which I do not believe live stream and I am not sure if they gather audio. When there is a problem a camera bus is used for that route. It can often be difficult to get an aide/monitor assigned to a route and in my opinion hiring aides would be a better use of district funds.

Thank you for time and consideration." (Excerpt of statement given at Board of Education meeting from one of our drivers)

(above excerpts from RFP)

Allowing potential transportation contractors to have properties up to 15 miles outside of San Francisco (on the Peninsula). This does not seem like a good idea. When issues like missed kids, last minute trips, and ability to respond to breakdowns come up, the vehicles could be very far away. Also, the additional drive time, though notorious bay area traffic (rush hour as well), will inevitably cause delays, late pickups, and add to the cost of the contract. During a Q&A, a potential bidder asked if Redwood Shores was within the 15-mile limit and was told yes. The current bus yard location is well within the city limits and is next to a freeway on-ramp.

(above excerpt from RFP)

(above excerpt from RFP Q&A)


SFUSD's use of rideshare companies to transport small children (not part of RFP - but still a concern). As mentioned above, SFUSD is currently contracting with rideshare companies to transport children on a limited basis for now - but this could increase (click here for example contract). Rideshare drivers are generally independent contractors with no wage guarantees, minimal (if any) benefits, and are required to cover the costs of fuel, vehicle maintenance and an increased tax burden. These drivers also do not receive benefits given to regular employees; such as unemployment benefits, workers compensation, minimum wage guarantees, social security contributions, and many other protections. To put it simply: they are exploited. Fortunately, California law is starting to recognize this and things are set to change. These drivers do have some background checks, but do not come close to meeting the qualifications of certificated school bus drivers and mostly use personal vehicles (see picture below of a rideshare vehicle authorized to transport minors):

"Many of our drivers have spoken to you about our safety concerns with the district's plan to use regular vans for home-school transportation - sacrificing safety to save money. This workforce is not guaranteed our prevailing wages and benefits and will most certainly be paid far less - possibly non-livable wages - and will most likely be non-union if the lowest cost workers are sought out.

Our Union has been Transporting SFUSD school children for over 40 Years. We know, and care for, the families and children we serve and have watched many of the children grow up.

The splitting up of the contract, and our union family, is very hurtful and not in the best interests of the children, the families, and the district. The splitting up of the contract also sets the stage for further reducing the usage of school buses and instead using more standard vehicles, thereby bypassing all the safety regulations that the school bus industry is based upon.

Splitting our contract also pits our Unionized workforce directly against these other workforces who will most likely be non-unionized, lower paid, workers or even miscategorized, exploited, independent contractors. The district is already contracting with rideshare companies. Rideshare drivers are not legally allowed to even form Unions; they generally have to pay for the repair of their own vehicles, and they do not receive most of the protections and other benefits, including wage guarantees, that regular employees do.

This is a race to the bottom. I urge you to reconsider the division of the transportation contract and to respect our workforce.

Thank You" (excerpt from statement given by one of our drivers to the Board of Education)

(photo taken in the Tenderloin neighborhood - November 2019)


Additional concerns (more will be listed here as they are discovered).

The RFP has significantly increased the liquidated damages for potential contractors. There was a shortage of drivers this year and our industry has many of the problems that MUNI faces with driver recruitment, retention, and the extreme costs of living in the San Francisco Bay Area. The RFP does ask that bidders provide their plans for retention and evaluates this. It is understandable that SFUSD would need to assess damages for poor performance, but this will also be factored into potential bids and can raise costs if they are excessive and overly punitive (excerpts below compares the liquidated damages in current RFP to the prior transportation contract). Perhaps a stronger focus on retaining, recruiting, and training new hires could be emphasized in the RFP.

(above is excerpt of liquidated damages from current RFP)

(above is excerpt of liquidated damages from prior contract)


Examiner Article: "New S.F. school transit service raises bus drivers’ concerns"- February 14, 2020 (click here)

Examiner Article: "SF school bus drivers fear new contracts could lower safety standards"- October 30, 2019 (click here).

San Francisco Labor Council Resolution (click here) in Support of Safety For School Children as They are Transported Home-To-School in Safe Vehicles by Experienced, Unionized School Bus Driver.

Indiemedia write up (click here): 'Stop Outsourcing SF School Buses & Endangering Students Rally By SMART 1741" and (click here for another article).

Article in Workers World (click Here)' SF union says: Don’t mess with ‘little yellow school bus’

KPFA WorkWeek Radio Show Discussing our Issues, November 12, 2019 (Audio - click here)


Video Presentations Before the San Francisco Board of Education.

We have spoken at numerous board meetings - some examples are given below.

(click play arrow to start videos)

(February 11, 2020 meeting - statements given in opposition to SFUSD's planed vote to award a contract to a rideshare comapany to transport school children; potentaily removing them from school buses. The Board voted to grant the contract to Zum.)

(October 29, 2019 meeting - many statements given regarding safety, white van, rideshare company usage, and threats to our union)

(October 15, 2019 meeting - statements given regarding safety training,and the excessive use, and potential cost, of technological equipment requested in the RFP)


Video Interview by the Labor Video Project (Steve Zeltzer) - Rally on 29, 2019.

People to Contact at SFUSD with your Concerns:

Arcadio A Fokin, Executive Director, Transportation Transportation Department 1000 Selby Street San Francisco, CA Phone: (415) 695-5505 Fax: (415) 695-5759

Orla O'Keeffe, Chief, Policy and Operations Policy and Operations 555 Franklin Street, 3rd Floor San Francisco, CA Phone: (415) 241-6121 X1352 Fax: (415) 241-6012

Damian Vigil, Purchasing & Warehouse Manager, SFUSD Purchasing Department, RFP No. STS-2019 135 Van Ness Avenue, Room 123 San Francisco, CA 94102 Tel. No. (415) 241-6468 ext. 1608 Fax No. (415) 241-6487 Email:

SFUSD Superintendent, Vincent Matthews, Ed.D., 555 Franklin St, San Francisco, CA 94102, Office 415-241-6121

San Francisco Board of Education, 555 Franklin St, San Francisco, CA 94102 - (415) 241-6493

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