BOSTON — In an effort to save millions as transportation spending grows, Boston Public Schools plans to consolidate numerous bus routes starting this fall, resulting in the layoff of dozens of drivers.
The route and staffing changes were spurred by the results of a national contest held by the school district called the BPS Transportation Challenge, NECN reports. The contest began in April and asked participants to submit ideas for how to more efficiently run the district’s bus system. A team of MIT students and professors won the contest’s first round with an algorithm that studied thousands of potential bus routes and various situations that could impact those trips, according to the news source.
The team’s plan involves removing 77 school buses as it pinpointed ways to consolidate bus stops, according to Boston Globe. However, John Hanlon, the school system’s chief of operations, told the newspaper that the school district might instead initially only remove between 40 and 50 buses.
The plan is expected to save the district up to $5 million and improve on-time performance, maximize the number of students riding each bus, and strategically reconfigure bus stops, according to NECN. However, the route changes will likely place many students at new bus stops and on longer routes, in some cases due to the wide dispersion of students, Boston Globe reports.
Boston Public Schools has grappled with curbing transportation spending for years, according to the newspaper. Transportation spending is expected to be $116 million for the 2017-18 school year, representing about 10% of the school system’s $1 billion budget, which is one of the highest rates in the country, according to Boston Globe. The district has tried to cut spending over the last several years by consolidating stops, looking more closely at which special-needs students require door-to-door service, and providing public transportation passes to most middle-school students as an alternative to school bus transportation.
As the district takes on these changes, it is also looking for a new transportation director: Jonathan Steketee, the former transportation director, left last month, and the assistant transportation director, Michael Hughes, retired this month, the newspaper reports.