Optimizing your School Bus Routes for Efficiency

Optimizing your School Bus Routes for Efficiency

The challenge of routing school buses efficiently and safely is one that has been faced by Transportation Directors for years. There are a number of factors to consider when creating a bus route, and getting it just right can be a difficult task. But with careful planning and execution, it is possible to create a route that meets the needs of all students in your district. Follow the below steps for a basic tried-and-true guide to routing kids to and from school with ease.

Start by compiling an accurate list of all students in need of transportation.

It is important to get an accurate count of how many students will be riding on the bus route, as this will determine the number of your buses you need to utilize, or additional ones you may need to purchase. Sometimes this can be the most difficult aspect to routing efficiently. If you don’t already have this, consider obtaining a list of regular riders from your drivers, riding along yourself, or having parents submit documentation requesting transportation.

Having an accurate list of student information can help you customize the route to meet the needs of different students. This list should include each student's home address, alternate addresses (if different from their home), the school they attend, frequency of pickup, and any other pertinent information. Keeping this list up-to-date will also enable you to easily identify which buses need to be added or removed if the list of students changes.

Having an accurate list of student information before adding stops and routing kids is key to creating a safe, efficient bus system. Keeping this list updated regularly will ensure your district can maintain this level of efficiency throughout the school year. It can be helpful to implement a process to ensure parents are annually updating their students’ transportation needs towards the end of the school year. 

Start creating stops.

Once you have an accurate list of students in need of transportation, it’s time to begin adding stops to create a route. If your district requires all stops to be door-to-door, then all students will need to be picked up at their homes. Otherwise, you can have the liberty to create group stops to reduce time and mileage for your routes. 

The first consideration for creating bus stops is safety. It is recommended that stops be placed at least one block away from busy intersections and areas with high traffic. Be sure to take road curvature, hills, and other blind spots into account. Additionally, stops should be placed within a reasonable walking distance from students’ homes or schools. This amount can vary depending on your county and state’s regulations, along with the student’s age or grade.

Within town areas, intersections can make great group bus stops that students from a particular area can all centrally walk to. In rural areas, it’s trickier to make group stops, but it can be done within reason. Not all children have an available parent to drive them to their bus stop in the mornings, so you must be sure they’re safely within walking distance of their stop. The stops should also have enough room for buses to safely pull in and out, and they must have available turnarounds if applicable, as well as a clear view of incoming traffic so that drivers can see when it is safe to proceed.

The basic list of stops along the school bus route is essential for creating accurate and efficient routes. Not only does it provide safety for students, but it helps determine the amount of time that each bus will need to spend on its route and how many stops are necessary. By considering these factors, districts can ensure that all students are picked up and dropped off safely and on time.

Consider your starting points.

If your district allows it, some bus drivers can park their bus at home and begin their route from there. This can be a huge advantage for mileage and time constraints, especially on rural routes. If your driver has the space at their home, then starting the route from there can allow them to pick up nearby children more quickly, and it eliminates their commute.

Don't be afraid to pick up children from multiple schools on the same route.

Many districts can get caught up in making sure certain buses only drop off at certain schools, but this can create overlap and unnecessary stops. Consider creating multiple routes that pick up kids from a few select schools instead of having one bus make multiple stops for just one specific school. This will help reduce time spent on the road and ensure efficiency, while still meeting the needs of multiple schools within the district. Be sure to take your schools’ bell times into account, as well as the total distance between schools. 

Combine close stops to a central location when possible.

To further streamline the process, consider combining close stops at central locations. This will help reduce the amount of time spent on individual stops and create a more efficient route overall. Additionally, central locations such as churches or community centers can provide more space for buses to pull in and out safely while ensuring that all students are picked up and dropped off in a central location. By combining stops, districts can reduce the amount of time it takes to get students safely to and from their destinations. Be sure that these stops have adequate room for your bus to turn around, or multiple exit points, along with ensuring the parking lots are not too busy for children to be dropped off. 

Creating an efficient and safe bus system is essential for the security of students and the smooth operation of transportation. When beginning this step, it is important to have a clear understanding of the student population, their needs, as well as your district, to create efficient bus stops. There are certain circumstances where more stops in one area may be necessary, but other circumstances where one whole block or neighborhood of kids can be picked up at the same stop. Keep this and the specific needs of the children of your district in mind when centralizing and combining stops.

Rearrange routes and stops as necessary.

Once a basic guideline for a bus route has been built, it is important to organize and rearrange the routes and stops as necessary until an efficient and safe route has been built. Don’t be afraid to change things up. It can be a challenge to implement new bus routes, but it can ease the transition by including your team. Consider running proposed routes by your drivers or other members of your transportation department to see if there is anything you may have overlooked or missed, and to gain their insight. You may have to go through several renditions of one particular route in order to end up with one that is both efficient and safe. Trial and error can sometimes be the best method for creating truly efficient routes that both you and all the members of your transportation department are happy with.

Avoid crossover and overlap of routes.

When constructing your routes, it is important to keep crossover and overlap of routes to a minimum in order to avoid congestion and the wasting of time. For example, if two buses from different schools are traveling along the same route at the same time, they should not be picking up children from the same area or stop, as this would create crossover congestion and slow down the process. Instead, try to stagger pick up times and stops in order to reduce crossover and create a much smoother system overall.

Keep bus driver and school information up-to-date and accurate.

Throughout the school year, it is essential to keep accurate records of driver and school information. Make sure that you are regularly updating the contact information for each bus driver and that all school records are accurate and up-to-date. This will ensure that you know who is driving which route at any given time as well as who is being picked up and dropped off at each stop. This is important for student safety as well as accurate records and accounting of students.

Keep student records and files up-to-date in your student information system.

In addition to updating driver information and school records, it is essential to keep student records and files up-to-date in your student information system (SIS). This not only provides you with the necessary information for student safety but also helps you stay organized with student data such as contact information and school records. Make sure to regularly update student records when necessary and make changes when a student moves or when parent contact information changes. Staying organized is beneficial to the district and helps ensure student safety and transportation efficiency.

Be prepared for potential issues.

No matter how well-planned and organized a bus route may be, there is always the possibility of potential issues arising. Be prepared for driver callouts, road blockages, bad weather, mechanical issues, and more all happening at any given time. Having a plan in place and preempting issues can help to reduce stress and difficulty whenever issues do arise.

Utilize software to save the most time and energy.

Finally, software can provide an easy and efficient way to plan out bus routes. There are a large number of options on the market, however, EZRouting is one of the easiest to learn and use. EZRouting is a great example of software that is built to help transportation departments create safe and efficient routes quickly and with ease. With this software, you can access all of your necessary information, such as student records, driver info, stops and more, in order to quickly generate a route that is both safe and efficient with a birds eye view. This software can help save time and energy in planning out bus routes, as well as provide an easy way to keep your district organized and up-to-date. Get ready to take back your summers!

By following these steps and guidelines, you can create an efficient, safe, and organized student transportation system. With a little bit of planning, organization, and attention to detail, it’s easy to create an effective transportation plan that will benefit your district, all while keeping students safe. By taking into consideration factors such as route design, organization, driver information accuracy, student information accuracy, and the utilization of software platforms such as EZRouting, districts can plan out efficient bus routes that promote both organization and safety. With a well-planned system in place, school districts can continue to focus on the well-being and overall goal of quality education for all students.