District Administration magazine reports on how reworking school bus routes helps several East Coast school districts cut costs.
The first example given was Boston Public Schools, which reportedly spends 10 percent of its $1.1 billion school budget on busing 25,000 students to 230 schools.
The solution was developed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Operations Research Center. Software that was developed to analyze student rider information and traffic patterns, calculated an enormous number of possible routes. It took 30 minutes to determine the best ones.
BPS was able to cut 1 million miles and 50 buses from its operations and get down to 650 routes per day, amounting to a savings of $3-$5 million for the 2018 academic year.
Will Eger, strategic project manager for the BPS finance department, looks forward to a time when bus routing systems become automatically adjustable. If road conditions or traffic result in route delays, the bus could be rerouted via messages to the driver or updates to the navigation system, so that students arrive at school on time.
At New York’s Bay Shore Union Free School District, the routing and tracking software Transfinder assists with creating efficient school bus routes. Transportation Director Richard Gallagher also lends his experience to the issue by making tweaks based on his knowledge of the area and local trends, such as commuter train schedules.
“Any district not looking closely at its buses and routes is leaving money on the table that is better spent on teaching,” he said.
Fairport Central School District keeps routes to 45 minutes and strives to pick up more students at each stop, thus reducing the number of stops overall.
“Figure out, if you drop off students at a school, can you pick up students at a nearby school for the next run? It can depend on geography. City and suburban districts have it easier—it’s harder for a rural district,” said Transportation Director and busing consultant Peter Lawrence, who also serves as the region 1 director for the National Association of Pupil Transportation. He added that transportation should be included in the district administration’s conversations on new programs.