2019 Edelman Finalist Boston Public Schools

Optimized School Bus Routing Helps School Districts Design Better Policies

Half of Boston Public Schools’ (BPS) 55,000 students take a yellow school bus to one of 125 schools each day. Planning the 45,000 miles for 646 buses daily was a significant undertaking, requiring 10 people and more than 3,000 hours. BPS held a nationwide months-long challenge to produce more effective results. The winning submission came from nearby MIT, which created a new bus routing algorithm generating a solution that was 20 percent more efficient in about 30 minutes. With MIT’s support, BPS implemented the solution, resulting in the largest-ever one-year reduction in buses, leading to nearly $5 million in annual reinvestment back into schools. Developing an automated routing system has made BPS the first school district in the country to accurately map out the transportation implications from various policies. BPS has used this innovative approach in efforts to re-align bell times, estimate costs for changing transportation eligibility, and develop robust strategic plans, paving the way for other school districts to support policy decisions with analytics.