Contractor Navigates Complex District Needs with this Technology
Steve Gardner oversees the transportation of more than 26,000 Connecticut students who attend school in more than 30 different school districts.
But to speak with him, Gardner, the former director of technology and now the general manager at All-Star Transportation, doesn’t appear stressed in the least.
Even when his firm, which prior to the pandemic had just under 1,000 drivers, had been down as many as 170 drivers at one point, Gardner said the routes get covered and students get the transportation to and from school that they need.
In 2019, All-Star was acquired by Student Transportation of America, which transports 1.25 million students daily in North America, but officials said in media reports at the time that “little if any noticeable change will occur in All-Star’s operation.”
What helped Gardner navigate the complexities of each district for the past two decades continues to this day: Transfinder technology and support. Gardner said when he came on board, the company was using paper maps and pins to create routes. As an IT person by trade, Gardner said he was comfortable bringing in technology to All-Star to build routes and create efficiencies. Gardner said many of the districts have unique needs. He said some districts have two bell times (or start times), some districts have three bell times and some districts have four bell times.
And schools also have different approaches to picking up students. Some districts require every student to be picked up at home while others have students picked up at stops with other districts. Central of solving each of these unique needs is Transfinder technology. All-Star started with Transfinder’s flagship routing solution at the time, Routefinder Pro in 2012, which served the company well for 10 years, Gardner said.
About two years ago, the company moved to Transfinder’s award-winning, browser-based Routefinder PLUS solution. Gardner said he took some classes but said the solution was user-friendly and ultimately, “I taught myself.” He said tools like the Transfinder Community, which has an inventory of how-to videos and manuals, also made learning the product easy to learn.
In Community, for example, Transfinder clients find upcoming webinars, with titles such as: “What’s new in Routefinder PLUS” as well as a weekly “Routefinder PLUS Q&A,” which is a standing webinar each Wednesday with no agenda other than to answer questions from clients about PLUS.
Also in Community are easy-to-find and easy-to-use guides like, “Getting Started with Routefinder PLUS,” “Routefinder PLUS Getting Started Checklist” and “Routefinder PLUS Glossary.”
Community also provides content on specific topics that have risen to the top among clients, such as: “Creating an Exception in the Map Canvas,” “Add an Alternative Site” and “Assigning Students in the Map Canvas.”
Gardner said he was less concerned about moving his team from Routefinder Pro to Routefinder PLUS, noting that PLUS is more user-friendly and intuitive.
“I love the maps, which are more intuitive,” he said. Being able to visualize routes and have routes side by side makes it easier to make adjustments. In the past, he’d have to open a route, see where there might be overlap with another route, close that route and open another route and remember what changes he wanted to make. Now he can have as many routes as he wants open at the same time and move stops and adjust routes with a few clicks of the mouse. He also likes the fact that the software is browser-based so he and his team can access it from anywhere they have internet access.
“It’s faster, too,” he said.
In moving to PLUS, All-Star also moved to having its data hosted in the cloud, a move Gardner was happy to make. Having Transfinder responsible for hosting provides another level of security. Transfinder utilizes Amazon Web Services for hosting.
Gardner praised Transfinder’s support as well, noting how quick they are to respond to concerns and the interest they have in feedback.
“You guys have been great to us,” Garner said. “Our suggestions are listened to and put in place which makes your software even better.”