Efficient school bus route planning is a complicated exercise and relies heavily on accurate data. As evidenced by this article by Park and Kim, there is a wide array of challenges in the bus routes planner process. The challenges include resource management, route planning efficiency, numerous adjustments, the safety of school children, and the assurance that children will both get to school and back home in time. All this is without mentioning the will to reduce operational costs and increase savings.
Even schools or transport providers with an established system need to review logistics and route risk assessments, at least every year. Children move and leave school, while others join, and route may change. A review ensures a system that finds the best balance between service delivery and proper management of resources. Transporting children to and from school is not a primary task, and not one that will always run correctly. But there are solutions in route planning that can significantly improve the cost and safety aspects involved.
To understand this better, we propose the following contents:
Table of Contents
Three Crucial Factors of School Transportation Management
Safety of children
The moment a school agrees to transport children, it enters a severe liability. Indemnity agreement or not, the loss of children’s lives is something no school management wants on their hands. Apart from adequately screening drivers for experience and safety records, there are several other aspects at play.
It is crucial to carefully consider the distance children have to walk to get to and from the bus stop, and safety at these stops. To do so, one must establish how many children are in a given area. A location for the best, as well as the safest bus stop for everyone involved needs to be located.
Where applicable, driving routes need to be assessed for safety, so children have the least exposure to dangerous situations.
Best Use of Financial Resources
Running a school bus transportation service is no cheap task. Margins for cost can range between $60 000 to $100 000 per bus, and a slight improvement or glitch in running them can cause a significant cost implication in either direction. Every slight increase made, therefore, can result in much-needed savings.
The objective is to get busses running most productively while considering the cost of staff, fuel, and maintenance. Running with low ridership, or too few occupied seats means there is a higher expense. When a school district operates this way, the vehicle will be overused. Too many passengers and the effect is an extra trip, at the expense of resources and time management.
Then there is the issue of busses running on roundabout routes, which wastes fuel and time. The traveling distance of the bus with no passengers also needs to be restricted as much as possible. These issues are the same as city transit. They have also to create a schedule for trips, determine fares, transfers, and build bus timetables. All these issues mean an increase in costs. Proper route planning is one of the ways to increase the use of financial resources.
Time and Efficiency
For school transportation service, time is a crucial element. There are issues with early or late children pick us. These issues in service delivery affect parents and school faculty alike. Pick up and drop off times need to be consistent and reliable. Disruption in the system is not an option. Parents have their set routines, and education needs to run as usual.
Challenges in this area include road congestion at different times of the day, the reliability of the driver, and the size of service areas and distances to school. Buses in metro areas are also facing similar issues. More and more, transit companies are looking at map data and programs to make changes to improve service delivery. Examples are the following: linking to more stations, trains, train locations, line cars, creating alerts for the spread of Metrobus information, as well as special provisions for seniors and riders.
How Route Planning Can Address These Challenges
It becomes clear that proper route planning is the best solution when we look at all the variables involved. Let’s have a look at the ways that route planning can improve the success of school transportation service logistics.
A list of students needing transport and their addresses is the first set of data required in structuring logistical factors. Viewing student addresses on maps will reveal subdistricts and scholar density, simplifying the task of assigning amounts of busses or sizes to specific areas. Knowing this information allows the refining of staffing logistics.
Narrowing the logistics can also help improve safety. Reviewing the address locations of each child and the safest route for each can help pinpoint pick up points. Crucial factors include the number of times a student will need to crossroads and adequately safe waiting areas for bus stops.
Bus stop locations need to be assigned not only by safety aspects. These need to be compared with distances to school for the efficiency of time and resource management.
Once pick up points are established, a route can be evaluated for congestion and efficacy. The objective here is to eliminate unnecessary deviations, as well as finding the best routes or times to combat road congestion.
Most Cost-Efficient Route Planning Options
A mapping system is a must for addressing the challenges of school transport logistics. The size of the school and district will determine the level of sophistication needed in your system!
Smaller areas might be able to get away with free software. Google Maps can provide adequate data for smaller users to find the best routing possible. These areas can use less robust solutions as they have fewer students. For most areas, there would be a need to focus on purchasing route planning software. There are many great options online, depending on your circumstances, and if you’re a private company, the needs of your customers. Also, for larger school districts or transit operators, they will likely want to look into fleet management software. This type of software allows tracking the lifecycle of vehicles, track mileage, downtime, and much more.
For More Information
To map a bus service, one must identify the exact addresses that will constitute the route. These addresses, or stops, can then be plotted on a map using specialized software to that effect. The software will show the travel time, the street view, and other useful features such as language support.
The short answer is that there is no exact answer. The best trip planning tool depends on the needs of the user. A simple software suffices when there are one vehicle and a limited number of stops. A more sophisticated solution is required whenever the requirements increase, such as the number of vehicles, drivers, and stops.
We hope that this article gives people more info on this topic. We know that orchestrating bus lines is a difficult exercise, and so we are doing what we can to support you. As always, we are always open to all questions, comments, or feedback that you may have. Happy planning!