Meet the modern school bus
- Districts are starting to take advantage of tools like GPS and automated routing systems to streamline school transportation and cut back on costs.
- For example, Summit School District in Missouri uses a tool called Transfinder to track how heavily used its different bus routes are. The data has allowed it to cut back on stops where students do not regularly board.
- Tools like Transfinder, Edulog, and Versatrans also create regular reports on maintenance and can require bus drivers to do a daily checkup before leaving the terminal, allowing districts to quickly respond to problems and prevent delays or safety issues.
Bus routes are costly and often inefficient, but they can be challenging to streamline given the increasing complexity of school attendance. Still, many districts have had to make cutbacks thanks to shrinking or stagnant budgets. As District Administration reports, tools like automated routing systems can help districts make cutbacks where it makes sense. In Columbus, OH, for example, the district must bus students to private or charter schools in addition to traditional public schools. That requires juggling a dizzying diversity of start and end times in addition to complicating routing, as students may not attend their nearest school.
“It’s a great big puzzle with a lot of pieces,” Steve Simmons, Columbus’ director of pupil transportation, told District Administration. “A routing system helps us to keep everything timed correctly.”
It also gives the district some capabilities it never had before, including tracking whether a student got on a bus or not. That ability is helpful when parents call to complain that their student was absent because the bus never picked them up, but it can also help make sure all students are getting where they should. In recent years, there have been a few cases of students forgotten on buses or students who were misplaced somehow over the course of the school commute. Tools like these can help prevent that.
- District Administration Business of bus routing