District Administration May 2018 - 42
Enter the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology's Operations Research Center, located just across the Charles River
from district headquarters.
To model the busing problem,
MIT's software mapped new bus routes
by analyzing every rider's location and
destination, along with historic traffic
Along the way, the software looked at
an astronomical number of route combinations-on the order of 300 followed
by 60 zeros. (That's more than the number of hydrogen atoms in the sun.)
Using MIT's supercomputer network,
the problem was solved in 30 minutes.
The result is 650 discrete bus routes,
and a reduction of Boston schools' fleet
by 50 vehicles. The savings is between $3
million and $5 million for the 2018 academic year.
The changes resulted in a more efficient transportation network as well,
with an estimated 1 million fewer miles
traveled and 20,000 fewer pounds of carbon dioxide emitted.
"The next step is to rewrite the software to run on a laptop so every district
can use it," Eger says.
Not every school district, of course,
has access to world-class engineering
expertise and supercomputers to route
10 tips for saving money on bus routes
1. Pick up more students at each stop.
2. Run each bus several times per day.
3. Consider staggering or changing bell times.
4. Ensure drivers follow policies, such as those that bar unscheduled
5. Ensure multiple buses don't pick up students on the same street.
6. Leave space on buses for new students in neighborhoods with transient
7. Include transportation leaders when planning new programs that require
8. Use routing software.
9. Rely on city officials' knowledge of the district, such as for learning the
locations of railroad crossings.
10. Borrow a supercomputer from a nearby university for remapping routes.
LEANER & GREENER-An MIT supercomputer remapped bus routes for
Boston Public Schools (above). The district trimmed its fleet by 50 vehicles,
saved about $4 million and cut carbon dioxide emissions.
42 May 2018
their buses. But logical actions can still
Making speedier adjustments
Richard Gallagher, the transportation director at Bay Shore Union Free School
District on New York's Long Island, uses a
combination of software and local knowledge. He tracks routes with software from
Transfinder, a company that provides districts with bus routing and related services,
and he also relies on his experience to make
tweaks for efficiency.
Each summer when Gallagher creates
the district's bus routes, he also accounts
for expected changes during the year by
leaving a few empty seats for new students
who move into neighborhoods with more
transient populations. He even takes into
account the Long Island Railroad commuter train schedules, since the town is
bisected by grade-level train crossings. "We
do pretty well at reducing costs," he says.
"Any district not looking closely at its buses and routes is leaving money on the table
that is better spent on teaching."
To control costs, districts should try to
pick up more students at each stop, adds
Peter Lawrence, a busing consultant and
transportation director of the Fairport
Central School District in New York. This
forces administrators to determine the
maximum duration of a bus run. Fairport,
for example, caps routes at 45 minutes to
an hour. Rural districts, however, may have
runs that exceed two hours.
"A bus run's efficiency is measured in
time and distance," says Lawrence, who is
also his area's representative for the National Association for Pupil Transportation. "If
you're making a lot of stops along the way,
times costs you money."
Districts should also ensure drivers
follow policies (such as those that bar unscheduled "courtesy" stops); and try to reduce "deadhead miles" when buses travel
empty, Lawrence says.
"Figure out, if you drop off students
at a school, can you pick up students at a
nearby school for the next run?" he says. "It
can depend on geography. City and suburDistrict Administration
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