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.