Boston public school officials reported a marked improvement Monday in the on-time performance of buses for the first full week of classes, while conceding that problems still exist in a system that has come under fire in recent years for chronic tardiness along some routes.
In a statement, the school system said the weekly average for buses arriving on time last week was 87 percent, up from 63 percent at the same time last year. About 32,000 students ride to and from school on approximately 3,200 routes, officials said.
Carl Allen, transportation director for the Boston schools, attributed the numbers to several factors, including better bus routes that more accurately reflect travel times.
“We got way ahead of the game last spring, beginning to build the routes for the fall,” Allen said.
He said about a dozen schools, which he declined to identify, are having delays loading and unloading buses, which can adversely affect routes. He said the process at those schools is taking up to 30 minutes, when it should take only 10, but that officials are working to address the lags.
He said about two dozen of the roughly 1,800 morning routes were delayed more than three times last week, and the School Department is checking to see if those schedules need to be adjusted or if there are other issues.
Bob Goodman, 43, of Allston, whose son attends the Mission Hill School at its new location in Jamaica Plain, informed the School Department last week that his son’s bus has picked him up 15 to 20 minutes late every day, after similar problems last year.
The School Department has reassigned Goodman's son to another bus starting Wednesday, according to Goodman’s e-mail correspondence with Allen and another official.
“It’s very frustrating,” Goodman said in a phone interview. “He loves school and can’t see why he should have to miss it” for a time in the morning.
In response to lateness issues last year, Mayor Thomas M. Menino ordered a top aide to monitor dispatchers and drivers. He said in a statement Monday that he was heartened by the latest figures.
“I am encouraged by the results so far of the on-time performance of our buses,” Menino said. “We still have work to do, and I know the School Department, working with our other city partners, will continue to push the progress in getting these buses through the city during rush hour on time.”
Maureen Richmond, a spokeswoman for First Student Inc., the company that runs the school buses, said in an e-mail that the company is pleased with the on-time performance this year.
“This outcome is a direct result of an ongoing, successful partnership between First Student and Boston public schools,” Richmond wrote.
The union that represents the city’s bus drivers could not immediately be reached. The School Department said in its release that more than 90 percent of the buses arrived on time Friday and that the rate jumped to 93 percent Monday.
“We are all very much focused on doing all we can to ensure more of our buses arrive at school on time, as soon as possible,” Superintendent Carol R. Johnson said in the statement. “While this is not an announcement of complete success, it is important that we recognize the incredible progress we’ve made compared to last school year.”