When Anthony Thomas started his one-station-wagon special-needs transportation business, back in 1933, he could hardly have envisioned that the company he started would be standing on the precipice of a major breakthrough in public transportation.
Nevertheless, that’s the truth: today, Community Bus Services, led by Anthony’s nephew, Terry, is in the vanguard of the transition from single-purpose, schools-only transportation to a multitasking concept that serves the entire community.
“There are 14,000 school districts in the United States,” Terry Thomas says. “Each represents a community. My job is to convince the community they should take a new look. This new model is saving money, providing employment, and working better, using local dollars to attract federal funds. It’s a synergy.”
Under his leadership, Community Bus Services has successfully partnered with school districts and government agencies in Ohio’s Mahoning and Trumbull counties to provide public transit services, school bus transportation, and management of transportation and maintenance departments for school districts. Every day, CBS transports some 3,000 students, in 125 yellow school buses, throughout Mahoning, Trumbull, Ashtabula, Franklin, and Cuyahoga counties and also manages the Warren City Schools fleet of 33 buses that transport another 3,000 students.
Terry organized the Ohio Bus Association, a cadre of contractors from throughout the state, and successfully fought for funding for school transportation regardless of whether a district’s buses were school-owned or supplied by a contractor. He was awarded the first Distinguished Service Award by the National School Transportation Association (NSTA) for his work in changing the school bus funding formula to account for the capital costs borne by contractors operating in Ohio.
“We are on the cusp of a whole new day,” Thomas says, “integrating special needs transportation and paratransit service. Integrated transportation saves school districts money and provides appropriate service to the community. It’s a win-win situation and it makes nothing but sense.”