The routing and scheduling software currently available to school bus operations is user-friendly and designed to make the routing process as smooth as possible for transportation personnel.
The maps provide a wealth of information, including streets, school locations, hazards, bus stops and district boundaries to help users create safe and efficient routes.
Moreover, with GPS capabilities and the capacity to manage special-needs routes and integrate with data-sharing tools, the software enables operations to further optimize routes, ensure that students are assigned to buses that accommodate their needs, and send information district-wide.
The following outlines specific features of routing software developed by several companies.
Education Logistics Inc. (EDULOG) manufactures several school bus routing and scheduling solutions. EDULOG.nt is the company’s flagship software in this arena; Carter Young, sales support manager, says it is the basis for all of the company’s other products.
“EDULOG.nt combines the functions of GIS [geographic information system], student location, routing and scheduling with optimization for runs and routes, special-needs transportation, shuttles and magnet schools,” Young explains.
Users have the ability to know which students belong on a bus, as well as where that bus has been and where it should be going. They can also add and relocate bus stops, create and change runs and routes, and adjust pickup, drop-off and travel times.
EDULOG.nt’s map displays students, schools, stops, runs, address ranges and street speeds, helping transportation officials identify when buses backtrack, runs cross or routes are duplicated.
There are two optimization software programs available with EDULOG.nt: run building and route coupling. Run building optimization produces a set of runs and sequence of stops that minimize travel time and distance while adhering to the user-defined parameters. Route coupling optimization combines a specified group of bus runs into bus schedules to minimize fleet requirements, layover time and deadhead travel distance.
EDULOG.nt is also well equipped to manage special-needs routes. The software offers users the option of either having all or part of rescheduling tasks performed automatically by the system, or of allowing the system to present all feasible rescheduling options and then making the final decisions independently of the computer. In either case, the software considers all possible student constraints to ensure that the alternatives presented satisfy specified parameters.
EDULOG’s second routing software, EduTracker, features a GPS/AVL component and a routing and scheduling component, facilitating two-way communication and data exchange. Young says, for instance, that driving instructions can be sent to buses for drivers on their routes while real-time GPS/AVL (automatic vehicle location) data from the vehicles are sent to the routing and scheduling component of EduTracker that indicates how long it takes for the drivers to complete the routes. If someone previously entered that a route takes 30 minutes to complete but the GPS/AVL data indicated that the driver completed it in 20 minutes, EduTracker can modify the data.
“With EduTracker, you know exactly where a bus is through the GPS/AVL data, and you can use that information to improve your routing through optimization,” Young says.
EDULOG developed EduTracker in recent years. The software’s fully integrated GPS/AVL and routing abilities stem from EDULOG’s view that they are connected. “We believe routing and scheduling are intimately connected with GPS/ AVL,” Young says, “and that the subsidiary [tasks] associated with routing and scheduling — such as driver tracking, student identification and pre- and post-vehicle inspection — should be integrated with routing and scheduling.”
EDULOG’s third routing solution for pupil transportation operations is ePTS (Electronic Pupil Transportation System). This software is an Application Service Provider system that the company designed specifically for smaller school districts.
The software allows smaller operations to utilize an EDULOG system without the large financial investment needed to purchase hardware or hire additional staff.
“EDULOG hosts the software on its servers and, depending on the service level selected by the school district, we can perform many of the duties of the transportation staff,” Young explains. “This has been very well received.”
With ePTS, EDULOG can handle such technical responsibilities as maintenance, map updates and customization of reports.
Routefinder Pro by Transfinder Corp. has been modified and upgraded over the past 20 years based on customer requirements and feedback.
Barbara Kane Pilliod, vice president of marketing and communications, says one feature that makes this user-friendly routing software unique is the fact that it is computer-assisted, meaning that the end user can incorporate his or her knowledge of the area into creating routes and stops. This ensures that routes are created correctly the first time around.
Moreover, with the integration of satellite imagery, Routefinder Pro provides a detailed view of streets, school locations, trees and hazards, which further aids in creating accurate routes. It also facilitates geocoding of students.
Along with the geocoding of students, the software features a GeoInfo Toolbox that allows users to outline a section on the map based on a point, walkout, radius, region or user-drawn area. They can then view all data associated with the section, including students, schools, streets, addresses and stops.
Pilliod says Routefinder Pro has an open architecture design. This allows for seamless integration with such datasharing tools as Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook, and Google Earth.
“In terms of Google Earth, we can export all essential data — students, stops and route information — to Google Earth, enabling transportation directors to see the information in real-world conditions and e-mail the maps to anyone within the district,” she explains.
Another unique feature of Routefinder Pro is its ability to provide custom reports. “The custom reports help our clients manage district and statewide report requirements,” Pilliod says. “We also have a report library within our client portal — users can access hundreds of report templates, download a template and integrate their data into the template. This makes their operations visually efficient to the district and the state.”
To incorporate GPS data, Transfinder offers its Busfinder GPS interface. Busfinder displays real-time or historical GPS data simultaneously with planned routes on the same map, while in routing mode. End users can then adjust their routes in a one-step process.
Transfinder currently offers an optional GPS implementation service for its clients that do not utilize GPS technology: RouteBuilder. RouteBuilder creates routes as school bus drivers drive.
“We loan our clients a set of handheld GPS units for the drivers,” Pilliod explains. “The drivers press a button [on the unit] every time they make a stop and that’s recorded so that the routes will be shown with the stops. Transportation officials can view the routes in Routefinder Pro through a RouteBuilder interface and manipulate them for time and distance. This is a way for school districts to get a taste of GPS and get their routes implemented quickly.”
Additional features of Routefinder Pro include shuttle run, field trip management and redistricting capabilities.
The software also has built-in reminders to notify personnel on steps they need to take to ensure that state requirements for vehicle upkeep and staff development are met.
Tyler’s VersaTrans Solution
Tyler’s VersaTrans Solution offers two versions of routing and planning software for pupil transportation operations: VersaTrans RP Standard Edition and VersaTrans RP Limited Edition. The standard edition is a solution for operations of all sizes, while the latter is a solution for operations with limited student enrollment.
A standout feature of the software is its map. It is designed for transportation and includes bus stops; district, school and walk boundaries; hazardous zones and streets; cross-street restrictions; right-side only pickups; and school locations with driveways.
“The map makes routing very easy,” Marketing Manager Melissa Belec says. “It grows with you as you insert or change things like house number ranges, hazards on the street and places where kids can’t cross the street. All of that information is stored in the map. The router doesn’t necessarily need to know the area to create a route that would be acceptable to the school district.”
Belec adds that because the data are stored in the map, not the route, the data are still available when a route is deleted and can be incorporated into a new route.
VersaTrans RP is equipped to create and manage both regular-ed and special- needs school bus routes, and Belec says one of the software’s strengths is its ability to integrate the intricacies that some special-needs students require.
“It handles special-needs routing exceptionally well by tracking what equipment a bus can accommodate,” she explains. “If the vehicle only has slots for four wheelchairs, [the software] would know, in routing, that you can’t pick up a fifth wheelchair-bound student because there wouldn’t be space for the student. It does the same thing for harnesses and other special equipment.”
VersaTrans RP also factors in the additional time it takes to load a special-needs student compared to a regular- ed student and creates routes that reflect the additional time.
Furthermore, the software is SIF (Schools Interoperability Framework) certified, signifying that it improves information-sharing within a school district and helps to streamline decision making. Belec says the software can communicate with almost any student information system so that users can input student data. VersaTrans RP can be programmed to import student data automatically at a frequency set by the end user.
Most of Tyler’s VersaTrans Solution’s software can be used in conjunction with one another. For instance, VersaTrans RP users can track their vehicles with VersaTrans OnScreen, the company’s GPS tracking and management system.
VersaTrans RP can manage shuttle routes as well, and it includes a predator tracking function to protect bus riders. In addition, the standard edition features district planning tools, but the limited edition does not.