Boston Saves $ 5 Million in Years with New School Bus Algorithm

In 2017, the Boston School District spent $ 2, 000 a year to transport one student by bus from home to school, which, with their number of about 25, 000 people, translates into 10% of the entire district budget. In the USA, since the 60s, they have been trying (but have not yet been able) to solve the problem of constructing an optimal scheme for transporting schoolchildren. Each county has its own conditions, and for such a large as Boston, just counting the number of possible solutions will require the use of a supercomputer. Therefore, scientists from MIT were tasked with finding a non-standard solution.

There are 220 schools in the district, and each family can choose from the 10 closest ones where their children need to be taken, and in different schools, classes start at different times - from 7:15 to 9:30. There are 5, 000 disabled people, the boarding and disembarkation of which requires special conditions and time. First graders must be driven by the same driver, a person they know, and high school students must be separated in order to avoid different conflicts. A huge 70-seat bus can travel and turn around far from everywhere - standard navigation on Google Maps is not always applicable here.

The team to find a solution was led by Ph.D. Arthur Delarue. Scientists have spent hundreds of hours just refining many of the variables that had to be taken into account when developing an algorithm. And we came to the conclusion that there is no point in changing the way buses and schools themselves work - we need to change the schedule of cars visiting stops. They took the argument that every student should not spend more than 1 hour on the road.

When the algorithm was launched in 2018 in trial mode, the computer generated a route map 20% shorter in 30 minutes. As the system improved, 50 buses were removed from the routes over the year. This year, the rest of the cars drove 1.5 million km less than last year, which means savings in fuel and a decrease in emissions into the atmosphere by 10 tons per day. In total, Boston County saved $ 5 million a year thanks to the new school bus scheme.