Disney tramlike audio messages coming to some Horry County school buses

vgrooms@thesunnews.comJune 28, 2013 

— Horry County Schools is modifying technology made for Disney World trams to use in 10 buses this fall, aiming to help its drivers and reduce student discipline problems.

The district will be the first in the nation to use the audio system designed by Alcorn McBride Inc., which makes products for themed entertainment including some at Walt Disney World, said Jim Wright, HCS director of transportation. Students will hear safety messages, soothing music and location alerts, and more could be added to the menu.

“My son and I were contemplating what could be done to change the environment in the buses,” said Wright, who said it was his son’s idea to replicate what is heard in Disney’s trams, buses and parks. “My main goal was to help the drivers, and this will keep them from having to yell out and will keep voices down in general.”

The system will be used all year in one bus from each of the district’s nine attendance areas and in a bus that goes to the Horry County Education Center, Wright said. The routes will be those that have had the most discipline referrals, and progress will be tracked every nine weeks. The cost of the system is about $1,300 per bus for equipment, installation and service.

“It was very cool when Jim first called me with this problem. … It’s a really unique application,” said Scott Harkless, sales engineer with Orlando, Fla.-based Alcorn McBride.

The audio player can handle the bus vibrations, and it is GPS-based, so it is aware of where it is in the world, Harkless said. The player can be programmed so that GPS coordinates trigger audio files, which will announce bus stops for the students.

This was the company’s first time working with a school district, but it is a more practical use of their equipment that could catch on, Harkless said.

“How many buses are there in the country?” Harkless said. “I think he’s on to something.”

Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_VickiGrooms.

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