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Innovative hub-and-spoke transportation model sets Tolleson Union High School District apart

Tolleson Union High School DistrictIn an effort to help solve some of the transportation challenges school districts are facing today, HopSkipDrive partnered with Tolleson Union High School District in Arizona in 2021 to support their application for an A for Arizona Transportation Modernization Grant

The Transportation Modernization Grants were specifically aimed at “sparking transit solutions and supporting those who want to develop and embrace additional options for better transporting K–12 public school students.”

Tolleson and HopSkipDrive worked together to devise and propose a unique “hub-and-spoke” transportation model to help fulfill individualized student transportation needs. Tolleson’s grant application was successful, and the district was awarded a $2 million grant.

Of the projects funded through the A for Arizona grant program, over 70 community partners — including HopSkipDrive — have been actively engaged with grant award recipients to help redesign what schooling looks like in Arizona, and to expand opportunities to better meet parent and student needs in the local community.

Joseph Ortiz Tolleson Union High School DistrictWe spoke with Joseph Ortiz, Director of Public Relations and Marketing at Tolleson (pictured left), about how the unique hub-and-spoke transportation model the district is using with HopSkipDrive is helping students experiencing homelessness, students in foster care and students outside district boundaries get to school safely and on time. We also talked about how Tolleson's partnership with HopSkipDrive has proven to be a win-win for schools, students and parents alike.


How did you hear about the A for Arizona grant, and how did your partnership with HopSkipDrive come about?

A for Arizona was offering $20M in grants for innovation in transportation. We were approached by HopSkipDrive, asking if we wanted to partner with them and telling us what they could offer. HopSkipDrive sat down with us, worked with our CFO, and together we came up with a plan. I believe the highest dollar amount that could be awarded was $2M, and we did get that. 

We implemented HopSkipDrive late in the school year last year, right before the holidays. That gave us a little bit of a jump start, so we could really refine it in January and February. No pun intended but it’s hopping now!

Of course, any time we have an opportunity to implement a program like the one we have with HopSkipDrive, it lessens the burden on our own transportation for both drivers and routes. 

Can you explain the hub-and-spoke model you’re using? 

School can be a very busy place in the morning as parents are driving their kids to school. It can be a little bit of a traffic jam. By utilizing the transportation hub-and-spoke model, students are picked up by HopSkipDrive CareDrivers and taken to a bus stop, usually the closest one to the school. So now those students can ride into school on the bus with their friends, which the students really like. That eliminates one car that would normally be going to school and taking up space. On the way back home, HopSkipDrive CareDrivers take the students directly home from school. 

This model is working well right now, especially for students who are coming from outside the district boundaries. 

Do you know how many students are benefiting from this partnership with HopSkipDrive?

The last time we looked at the numbers, I think it was up to around 180 students. We could be closer to 200 now. We promoted the partnership with the district and communicated with student populations who were going to benefit from it. Our grants department sent information out to students experiencing homelessness and students in foster care because we serve those populations, as well.

Are there specific benefits your transportation department has seen from this? How has it helped them?

Any time you can implement a program that lessens the burden on your staff, that’s a plus. HopSkipDrive has freed up our bus drivers

It has also allowed us as a district to provide a much-needed service to parents. By using the hub-and-spoke model with HopSkipDrive, it’s less of a burden for parents who would normally have to drive their kids into the school. Now, they can go straight to work and have the confidence that their student is being picked up. And they can use the app to track where the car is at and when the child arrives at school. 

I think this certainly endears the district to those parents who have students that are outside the district boundaries. It’s definitely been appreciated, and we love to be able to offer this. 

What about the kids? Do they like HopSkipDrive?

Yes, certainly, especially those who are continuously using it. If they need to leave maybe the same time every morning but then on certain days of the week, they’ve got practice. . . They can modify for a later pickup and still get home in time for dinner or whenever they need to get home. 

The flexibility is convenient for our parents. There’s really no reason why you wouldn’t use HopSkipDrive. Parent support is part of why the number of HopSkipDrive Riders is growing.

Can you talk a bit about how the numbers have increased since the launch last year?

Word of mouth has been huge. Let’s say we’ve got kids that are coming into our district from a certain area or a certain neighborhood, and there are other families that are also sending their kids into our district schools from outside the boundaries. They might ask, “How are you getting your kid there?” And then they hear about HopSkipDrive. 

And we also share all of the collateral materials with our parents — including information about HopSkipDrive CareDrivers, how they go through the same background checks and fingerprint clearances that our own bus drivers go through. That provides yet another level of confidence for using the service. 

How do you enable school-of-choice transportation? 

In an open district like ours, the money follows the student. Kids can go pretty much anywhere they want to go. And so that is the case. And just like other school districts that can offer programs that might be enticing to our students, we try to do the same. 

But nobody thinks about the transportation issue because like I said, before HopSkipDrive the parents had to drive their students. So there was a commitment there that they had to drive their student to the school, add to the line of traffic at the school and the drop-off points. By using the hub-and-spoke model, it’s the best of both worlds. 

So it’s been a win-win for everyone?

Yes. The students like it, the parents like it and the schools like it. It just works all the way around. It’s a concept that has resonated with the local community and the media. We have gotten so much positive press coverage for this!

How has it been for you working with HopSkipDrive? 

This is our first foray into working with HopSkipDrive. I’ve worked with your marketing folks and your PR folks, and they’ve been great to work with. They’ve supported us very well — every time we’ve needed something, they’ve been there for us. 

I think just about every television affiliate here did a story about this. The local newspaper did the story. We even had a national school transportation publication reach out to us to do the story. And it started with just one little news story on one of the local radio stations. After that. . . in the business, we call it a story that has legs — in this case, it has wheels! — but it just took off and then it snowballed. 

Anything else you want to share?

It’s been a joy to be able to work with HopSkipDrive. We feel very supported, and ridership is only growing with the word of mouth in the community and the communication that we’ve been doing. It’s been incredibly beneficial to offer this service, and it helps get more kids to school, safely and on time.

Tolleson Union High School District logoThe Tolleson Union High School District in Arizona is home to nearly 12,000 high school students, 550 qualified teachers, 50 administrators (including the superintendent), and a five-member governing board responsible for establishing policies and procedures for district governance.


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