EDULOG’s transportation management system allows for real-time tracking of school buses and displays actual and planned times at stops.
Software eases special-needs transportation
Routing software can also help to effectively manage the transportation of special-needs students by incorporating information about specific bus requirements — for example, wheelchair lifts — and multiple stops.
"ArcLogistics has the function to do what we call 'paired orders' — it's essentially a paratransit application," Pearlman explains. "So if you have special-needs students that may require a specially equipped bus — wheelchair lift, oxygen-enabled, aid on the bus, that type of thing — you can set those specialties to be sure that the properly equipped bus is assigned to that student."
In addition, Esri's software can also help districts to account for the more complicated routes needed to transport special-needs students.
"Frequently in paratransit application, unlike the normal school bus route ... you're picking up multiple students at multiple places and they need to be dropped off at multiple locations," Pearlman adds. "[ArcLogistics] allows you to set those trips and generate the route so you can pick up students at different places and drop them off at different places, as opposed to a standard bus routing algorithm."
Tyler Technologies' Versatrans product suite of school transportation software also eases the transportation of special-needs students by incorporating their information with that of regular-ed students.
"[Versatrans] manages all your students, including special-needs students, within one database. In one software application, they can be routed on separate buses or together on the same buses, requiring no other applications to manage accommodations for special-needs student transportation," Guzewich says.
Optimization will cut costs
Truly optimized routing software will save a district time and money. By using the software, transportation officials can determine the shortest, fastest and safest routes — as well as the number of vehicles actually needed.
"One of the major ways to reduce costs is to create efficiencies using our routing software that can eliminate a route, which can save a considerable amount of money over time. This can, in turn, reduce the number of buses that are on the road — and therefore reduce fuel usage and all the costs associated with that," Pilliod says.
Guzewich agrees that creating efficiencies is the best way to cut costs.
"Consolidating bus stops and reducing mileage are great ways to become more efficient," he says. "But understanding the operating cost of each vehicle is essential. The most inefficient vehicle in your fleet might not be the oldest. Versatrans allows you to identify an inefficient vehicle so you can remove it from your active fleet or put it on a less demanding run."
Young says that EDULOG's routing software's optimization capabilities helped Memphis (Tenn.) City Schools save $8.2 million in one year. Its software, he says, allows districts to test out innumerable "what if" scenarios and then examine the cost.
"Generally, our users see reduction in operating costs for their fleet between 15 and 30 percent when they implement ArcLogistics," Pearlman says. "And you'll see that if you're doing efficient route planning, the first thing you're going to do is reduce the amount of miles you drive."
"Many of our clients achieve significant cost savings year after year through the use of the extensive planning and analytical tools in Versatrans," Guzewich explains. "This is where the ability to quickly develop multiple scenarios and compare operating costs pays off."
"Using routing software," he adds, "is the only way to understand what the impact will be before changes are implemented. When transportation officials go to the school board or the community with proposed transportation changes, they will have all of the analytical data to effectively communicate the reasons for and impact of a change."