SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — A Maryland-based school district has tapped routing software developer Transfinder’s Routefinder solution to bolster its route creation process and improve on-time performance.  

Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) is deploying the supplier’s solution to create routes and reduce late bus runs in the 2020-21 school year, according to a news release from Transfinder.

“Our biggest problem is we are late every day,” said Dr. Rudolph Saunders, the district’s director of transportation. “This is one of the highest priorities in our district. What are we going to do about our late buses?”

The reason for the tardiness is one many districts across the country are facing: a school bus driver shortage. At PGCPS, anywhere from 70 to 100 daily bus runs are lacking an assigned driver. That is about 10% of the district’s total 1,000 daily runs, which covers sections just outside Washington, D.C., and Baltimore.

“We have a revolving door of people. On any given day we start off with 50 to 70 open runs at least,” Saunders said. “All those runs we have to quickly cover, which is why we needed software.”

PGCPS is one of the 25 largest school districts in the country, transporting 90,000 of its roughly 132,000 students daily to more than 200 schools, with children on buses for as long as two hours, according to Transfinder. (The district took the No. 12 spot on School Bus Fleet’s 2019 Top 100 School District Fleets list.)

Transfinder President and CEO Antonio Civitella said he was honored to add PGCPS to the Transfinder family.

“We are working — and will continue to work — tirelessly to help solve Prince George’s transportation issues,” Civitella said. “Our team is working closely with the team at PGCPS to help them overcome their challenges and have a smooth opening in the fall. Prince George’s County Public Schools is a good example of a district that is still getting business done even in the midst of this crisis, planning for the fall.”

PGCPS’s relationship with Transfinder began in the summer of 2019 when the routing software supplier conducted an analysis of routes and bell times.

“We were looking to change times, move stops, consolidate stops, institute hubs,” Saunders said of the initial work Transfinder did. “In a short time they made recommendations about those areas as well as our business practices. After seeing the outcome, we were convinced about partnering with Transfinder going forward.”

Saunders said, according to Transfinder, that the district has been shut down since early March because of the coronavirus, but routers continue to work remotely from their homes.

“They took their laptops home and all their information with them so they could do what they needed to do in terms of training and online simulations with Transfinder,” Saunders said. “We have meetings on a daily basis.”

Saunders said he is excited about Transfinder’s capabilities in addition to routing. In the past, he explained, when the district would discuss future strategies such as building a school, he would be asked how it would impact the district and specifically transportation.

“We’ve never been able to give anything but our gut feeling. Now we’ll be able to quantify the blow back,” he said.

Saunders added that one example could be changing bell times, which impacts the community but also could result in buses being on time most of the time.

“To have the data to support the decisions gives me a lot more credibility,” he said. “To show and quantify makes decisions easier.”

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