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Power Up: Leveraging User-friendly Tech to Solve Complex Transportation Challenges

When Transfinder Corp. began developing its first major overhaul of its flagship routing solution Routefinder, it was determined early on that every aspect of Routefinder PLUS had to be better than its predecessor. That means every key function had to be included plus many more features that clients had been requesting for years.

There would be no “lite” version. Smaller districts (we call them compact) and rural districts would get all the same robust features and functionality that big city and sprawling suburban districts would receive. We know that no two school districts are the same and no two transportation departments are the same either. We want all of our clients to push the envelope on PLUS’ capabilities.

The result has been clear: PLUS is not only faster, safer and smarter (our motto for the solution) but bigger, better, more intuitive, more user-friendly, mobile and a host of other descriptors. We know Transfinder more than meets the needs of the industry because this solution was built based on the input of so many school transportation professionals. (Get a quick look at Routefinder PLUS.)

Nate Spence, transportation supervisor at Somers Central School District in southeastern New York, perhaps summed it up best: “I think it’s going to take just days instead of weeks or an entire month to route a school district, based upon some of the automation that’s in the background and the recommendations and suggestions that PLUS can do automatically.”

We call it Artificial Intelligence Optimization (AIO) and it’s baked into Routefinder PLUS.

And PLUS is easy to learn.

“I think the biggest difference is that even if I didn’t go through Transfinder University Livestream, having a little bit of Routefinder background for many years, it’s almost easy enough to teach yourself if you’re smart enough,” Spence said. “So, to have to teach a secretary who’s going to be using it is going to be far easier.”

Spence joined a chorus of PLUS clients eager to share why PLUS is the best routing solution on the market.

Intuitively Fast

Clara Rivera, a router and transportation secretary at Ossining School District, also located in southeastern New York, gets right to the point when listing the number one aspect she likes about PLUS: “Routing is faster.”

She mentions as an example the intuitive nature of PLUS. She likes having the ability to amplify where right and left turns can be permissible or prohibited and avoid areas that can slow down routes, such as regions with numerous traffic lights.

Intuitively safe

Robert Pakish, transportation supervisor at Hannibal Central School District near Syracuse, New York, said the safety features embedded in PLUS, like preventing students from crossing the street to get on their bus, help him focus on the other areas of the district that need his attention. Since district policies can be input into the routing algorithm, it prevents routers from accidentally breaking safety rules.

“The system knows the level of safety I want required for particular trips and makes those changes on my behalf, knowing what my intention is without my having to put that extra time into it. It’s a huge time saver,” Pakish said.

“Since I started in this industry 15 years ago I couldn’t foresee myself being where I am now, having the responsibility that I have. I take it seriously and I dedicate every minute of my day to ensuring that the students in my district are safe. It’s programs like this that make my job a lot easier. Having Routefinder PLUS really does allow me to focus on the day-to-day and student safety and driver training and that’s where I think it’s most important,” he added.

“Great Looks”

“PLUS, it looks great! What I like most about PLUS is the change in the interface and how it looks,” Pakish said. “It’s cleaner, it’s enjoyable to use. It’s a program that’s nice to look at and it certainly doesn’t lack any of the features going from Pro to PLUS. It has more ways to do what you want. It’s not clunky.”

User-Friendly

John Kidd, head bus driver and a router at Fairport Central School District located near Rochester, New York, describes PLUS as “more user-friendly.”

Some of the things the district has done with Pro seem like they’re going to be easier to do with PLUS, he said. One example is creating a “secondary drop off location so you can bring students in earlier from different school programs (such as music programs or after school activities).”

Spence agrees.

“PLUS just seems far more graphically user-friendly than the existing Pro version does. The mapping pallets are just fantastic. Some tools like geo searches that find all the things in one particular area that you might not be able to easily do in Pro without having to go through a few clicks and windows … it’s just far more user-friendly,” he elaborated.

More Control with Reports

One of the features in PLUS that Pakish likes most is the library of unlimited reports that he can not just preview but edit as well.

“There are a lot of default situations, where the reports that are provided are great and do amazing things. But as the world changes and the world of transportation changes, there’s a need for having a little extra information on certain reports and a little less information on other reports. To be able to have the ability to make those changes yourself without having to request additional help from Transfinder … to be able to take control of that one more piece of your environment and what you create for your students in your district, that is amazing,” he explained.

Jennifer Clooten, transportation secretary at Bismarck Public Schools in North Dakota, couldn’t agree more.

“Being able to edit our own reports, or even create them from scratch, in PLUS is going to be nice rather than having to reach out to Transfinder support to update reports in Pro,” she said. “It’s very easy to add whatever information you want or to customize the report to your liking.”

Easy to Maneuver

Kristi Edwards, a router and transportation secretary at Livingstone Range School Division in Alberta, Canada, said the aspect she likes most about PLUS is the ease she has to quickly maneuver between maps and data and the ability to customize maps fast.

“It gives us the opportunity to work much more efficiently and quickly and I’m able to customize the maps to what I need to see,” she said.

Clooten said PLUS allows her to work the way she wants.

“You can open multiple screens in PLUS and keep them open. You don’t have to close one route to open another,” Clooten said. “You can go between a report and a route and keep them all open and go back to them as needed.”

Pakish summed it up in one word: Streamlined.

“Things are more streamlined and easier to use,” he said.

Integrates with Various Student Information Systems (SIS)

Terry Rivers, transportation assistant at Carthage Central School District in northern New York, likes the fact that her district’s Student Information System works seamlessly with Routefinder PLUS which will lead to major time savings.

“The fact that the download from our system to PLUS is going to be smoother and we won’t have as much manual entering – it’s going to make the routing portion a lot easier,” she stated.

What-if Scenarios

One of the features Clooten likes most about PLUS is the ability to create unlimited what-if scenarios and being able “to put information in for a student and overlay the routes and play back at the same time to see where they may overlap without disrupting existing routes and stop locations.”

It’s part of what Transfinder refers to as Smart Routing, using your local knowledge to optimize your trips.

Flexibility in Being Remote

If some unforeseen situation arises that prevents key district personnel from being in the office, they can still have complete access to PLUS from anywhere, a feature many clients see as crucial these days.

“Even if you don’t have your work laptop with you, you can log on from any computer,” Clooten said.

“The fact that you can log in anywhere you have an Internet connection is just really advantageous in the world we’re living in today,” Spence added.

Pakish agreed.

“I think a lot of us now are living off our laptops. We’re not necessarily in our offices or our offices have changed where we’re in the district one day and another day at home or several days at home or off site,” Pakish said. “To have the same level of access on your laptop is priceless. Priceless.”

Call 800-373-3609 or email getplus@transfinder.com to learn more about Routefinder PLUS.

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