Antonino Civitella, president & CEO of Transfinder, discussed how his “PEACE” plan plays a role in safely transporting students to and from school each day.
Civitella discussed the plan, consisting of: Plan, Execute, Accountability, Communicate and Examine, during his Bus Technology Summit Tech Talk on Tuesday afternoon.
Transfinder’s routing software is designed to create planned routes by incorporating local knowledge, Civitella said. He noted that whatever data is fed into the system, whether it be door-to-door stops or right-side only pickups, the routing software Routefinder Pro and PLUS automatically syncs these requests.
Civitella said based on the number of students requiring pick-up, the software could direct transportation directors to increase their number of routes, especially with social distancing requirements going into the next school year. A year ago, Civitella said he wouldn’t have wanted the computer to make all the decisions for him.
But now, he said while the computer makes the decisions, it still incorporates local, human knowledge. He said student transporters offer the ingredients that allow the software do its job correctly. He said transportation directors can get as granular as they please with the routing software, for instance restricting left-hand turns at certain intersections, based on certain days and times of the week. Transportation officials can also set up off-limits streets and higher preference roads.
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Once an operation has a plan, the next step is to execute it. Civitella noted that Wayfinder, a driver navigation application that is compliant with state laws, replaces paper route sheets. He said the app helps with student ridership attendance and gives drivers turn-by-turn instructions around a neighborhood. He noted that taking attendance also helps with contact tracing, which could be beneficial amid COVID-19.
How are drivers driving the planned routes to ensure they are safe and efficient? Civitella said tablets and GPS are a must, in his opinion, if a transportation director wants to know what is going on in real-time. He said by having GPS, one can have planned versus actual trip reports. Did the driver make an unplanned stop?
However, he said the accountability needs to go both ways, as drivers are on the frontlines of daily routes. They need to be able to provide feedback to directors on stop locations and times.
One way to provide that level of accountability is through communication, as Civitella said overcommunicating isn’t possible in this day and age. He said the more communication tools the better. One of Transfinder’s communication tools, Stopfinder, helps with sending parents notifications of real-time changes to student routes. By using Stopfinder, transportation officials can send push notifications straight to parent’s phones, if for instance, a change does come up.
The last step is to examine the plan, Civitella said. He noted that this is the time when one makes adjustments. But when should you adjust and how often? He said there should be a threshold when adjusting routes, and transportation directors or bus companies should know what factor is forcing the adjustment. Maybe the route is becoming less efficient, or kids have moved schools or to a different neighborhood.
He said the Transfinder system allows transportation directors to analyze and examine their routes to ensure their optimization. Civitella provided a chart that showed how that change could impact the community. Then, it’s up to the officials to decide if the change is warranted.
Civitella concluded by saying that Transfinder wants to bring peace of mind to their district partners and their families. He noted that all transportation officials are doing their jobs, which in return helps people rest easier knowing they are ensuring student safety.
Transfinder, a school bus software and routing company, is a diamond sponsor of the Bus Technology Summit, which runs through Sept. 24.