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First Student Inc., with 600 buses, now has a place to park them all

First Student Inc., with 600 buses, now has a place to park them all

Wichita Business Journal – by Chris Moon

Cincinnati-based bus company First Student Inc. has signed long-term leases at two Wichita sites that will serve as hubs for its operations in the city.

The bus company signed 10-year deals on 11 acres at 4141 N. Seneca and on 14 acres at 3610 W. 29th S. The sites have offices and maintenance shops.

The sites also have enough space to house the 600 buses First Student recently purchased and began operating under its contract with Wichita Public Schools.

The company in January signed a seven-year deal with USD 259 — replacing Illinois-based Durham School Services. The contract will pay $23 million this year. First Student employs about 700 people in Wichita.

“It’s big. It’s not quite our biggest (contract), but it’s near the top size-wise,” says Bonnie Bastian, a spokeswoman for the company.

It operates about 60,000 buses at 650 locations around the United States and Canada. Its bigger markets are Detroit, Omaha, Boston and New Orleans.

A long look
First Student had been looking for sites for its Wichita operations since March, says Don Arnold, of NAI John T. Arnold Associates Inc., which brokered the leases. The deals were finalized this week.

First Student had been using the space on North Seneca on a temporary basis. The ground at one time was part of Wichita Area Technical School’s truck driver training program.

The trick for First Student was finding enough acreage to store its buses, along with buildings for offices and maintenance. The company also wanted to pave its sites, which caused some cost constraints.

“If you have to build a building from scratch and pave (the site) from scratch, the transaction doesn’t work,” Arnold says.

Bastian, of First Student, says the company will pave the lots and do a range of other upgrades, including adding lighting and doing office build-outs.

Smith Construction is the contractor. First Student didn’t provide a cost estimate for the work.

Darren Muci, division director of operations for USD 259, says the district worked closely with First Student as it worked on its leases but had no requirements about where the company established its bus lots.

“We have confidence they know what they’re doing,” he says.

Where First Student Inc. is leasing space
Location — Size — Landlord
4141 N. Seneca — 11 acres — Price Transportation.
3610 W. 29th S. — 14 acres — James Koester and Latshaw Partners Enterprises.

cmoon@bizjournals.com | 266-6176