Trouble coming Tuesday morning

Bus routing for 14,000 students plus isn’t easy. In fact, it’s a pretty difficult math problem.

I suck at math. Most Americans do. Even smart people don’t understand how you do this. The classic story was that of a business school student who turned in a business plan for an overnight shipping company- where everything wen through one hub. His name was Fred Smith, he got a C. You may have heard of his company though- it’s FedEx.

Dayton Public Schools has been struggling with these issues for years, despite having less schools, less students and now 4 bell times up from 2 long ago. I watched in horror as Dr. Sheila Burton gave a single slide “presentation” on how she’d solved our bus problem with 4 bell times, new rules and cuts- that the board didn’t ask the superintendent to fire her for incompetence on the spot was beyond me.

Boston Public Schools on the other hand have a much more complicated system- with over twice as many students. They chose another way to solve this:

“A trio of MIT researchers recently tackled a tricky vehicle-routing problem when they set out to improve the efficiency of the Boston Public Schools bus system.
Last year, more than 30,000 students rode 650 buses to 230 schools at a cost of $120 million.
In hopes of spending less this year, the school system offered $15,000 in prize money in a contest that challenged competitors to reduce the number of buses.
The winners—Dimitris Bertsimas, co-director of MIT’s Operations Research Center and doctoral students Arthur Delarue and Sebastien Martin—devised an algorithm that drops as many as 75 bus routes”

from “How Do You Fix a School-Bus Problem? Call MIT” subscription required

FedEx, UPS, USPS all spend millions on figuring out how to do their door to door routes more efficiently. UPS software saves millions in fuel costs and works at refining routes in real time.

But here’s the thing- packages don’t walk. Door to door delivery is essential for them- but, not for students. For some idiotic reason, DPS still insists on trying to route buses down one way streets in historic districts that just aren’t wide enough for buses. My whole office stood and watched- and laughed – as a new DPS bus tried to turn down Adams street- I know, I should have grabbed a video camera.

Why neighborhood collection points aren’t in the solution is idiotic. Other than special needs kids- who may be physically challenged, pickup and drop-off points can be moved- and, as an added benefit, kids get some exercise.

Unfortunately, we aren’t smart enough to ask MIT or even UD to try to help. Nope, we’ve got Dr. Sheila Burton, who’s last day should be Tuesday if this doesn’t work.

Additional resources: 2 non paywall articles:
Here is a free article on MIT on public transit issues: https://www.citylab.com/…/inside-bostons-bus…/522726/
And here is a great one- with all kinds of links from NPR http://www.wbur.org/…/07/27/mit-quantum-boston-bus-routes

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