This tool played a major role in cutting one district’s driver shortage impact in half
Stephanie Holes puts it bluntly: “I wish we had this before.”
“This” is Routefinder PLUS. Since her district, Corning-Painted Post Area School District in New York, made the move from Routefinder Pro routing software to the award-winning Routefinder PLUS, there’s been no glances in the rearview mirror.
“I just think it’s far more intuitive, it’s more user-friendly,” said Holes. “The right-click-menu on pretty much anything, anywhere – it doesn’t matter if you’re in a map, a grid, anyplace in PLUS – right clicking a menu will take you somewhere. That’s by far the easiest thing that has come from PLUS.”
Speaking of anywhere, Larry Eccleston notes, “Because it is internet-based, I can access PLUS anywhere.”
Eccleston, Corning-Painted Post’s director of transportation, recalls sitting at central office and the superintendent asking, “Can we do this?”
“Hold on, give me a couple minutes and I’ll see what I can figure out,” he said. “With the Pro product it would be like, ‘Hold on, let me get back to my office, get to the desktop’ and log in from there.”
Anecdotally, since the pandemic, many transportation leaders have expressed having greater access to district leaders and being included prior to decisions are made that could impact transportation. Now with a seat at the table with decisionmakers, transportation leaders note that it is critical to have information at their fingertips. With Routefinder PLUS being browser-based, that information is quickly accessible from any mobile device.
Trip Absorption and Optimization
Beyond the ease-of-use and mobility Routefinder PLUS brings to the district’s transportation operation, Eccleston said PLUS has helped improve efficiencies through route optimization and trip absorption, which played a key role in helping the district reduce the impacts of the ongoing school bus driver shortage.
At the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, the Corning-Painted Post Area School District found itself 10 drivers short heading into fall opening.
“We were able to eliminate five bus routes two weeks before the start of school,” he said. “That helped us tremendously. We pulled up the bus runs we thought we could make work and used those tools to help us.”
Eccleston added: “We had the number of kids and it optimized it really well and made some minor changes. In just a few minutes we had five runs cut down to four.”
Holes said Routefinder PLUS made it very easy to test a number of different scenarios and see what impact it would have on the routes overall and individually.
“The ease in which we were able to play around with those routes” was a major benefit, she said. “Just being able to click and drag those to the different routes to see how it would work and what our bus load numbers would be with those combined routes, it literally cut the time in half or maybe even shorter than what we would have done in Pro.”
Eccleston, when describing the whole experience, also puts it bluntly.
“It was very simple,” he said.