Palmer Bus Service, MN

Routefinder PLUS ‘is kinda like playing a video game,’ router says

Palmer Bus Service, MN

Lamar Lunsford called his Transfinder Client Relations representative and put it bluntly: If he didn’t have summer school routes and band trips routed within days, he’d be out of a job.

“I told him plainly,” Lunsford recalled recently during an interview. “If I hadn’t gotten this done, if I hadn’t had his help and Transfinder, I wouldn’t be here talking to you right this very moment.”

That was Lunsford’s introduction into the Transfinder family and its routing solution Routefinder PLUS. Lunsford, a terminal manager at Palmer Bus Service, was creating routes for a small Minnesota school district that contracts with Palmer. The district transports some 400 students.

Lunsford said he attended as much of Transfinder’s training sessions as he could prior to making that call. But he kept being pulled into other responsibilities which led him to feeling like he didn’t have enough experience to create routes.

“Listen, I’ve got two bus routes and four band routes that I have to have done by Friday. I need your help because I’m really not that familiar with the software,” he remembered saying at the time.

The problem Lunsford was dealing with is one other transportation leaders can relate too, especially at Compact Districts, those smaller districts with fewer than 2,000 students being transported. Many people at these districts wear many hats and get pulled in many directions.

Still, he had to get the routes right for the district he was servicing.

“We’re real small in the big scheme of things nationwide,” he said, “but it’s very critical that we can use the software because it provides safe, effective routing for my students and in a timely manner for my drivers as well.”

After getting Lunsford’s call, Transfinder’s Client Relations rep went to work, first, showing Lunsford exactly how to upload his summer school students list into Routefinder PLUS and then how to make a route. Then Lunsford had homework, geocoding a sampling of students. The plan was to meet again in a few days to check on Lunsford’s progress.

The result? “This is how successful the software is: On the first day of my summer school, all my routes were on time, all my routes were early. So, it works.”

Lunsford said after the call with Client Relations, he had jumped right into geocoding students.

“I was like, ‘I’m here, I’m doing this. Might as well go ahead and make some routes. I started playing around with it.’” Soon any intimidation or uncertainty he had evaporated as he practically had fun creating routes.

“It’s kind of like playing a video game,” Lunsford said. “Once you get on it, you get addicted to it.”

Lunsford said he still plays games occasionally but admits, “This isn’t Modern Warfare or anything like that. But it’s still pretty cool.” One big difference between Routefinder PLUS and video games: Routefinder PLUS is easy!

He finished his routes fairly quickly but admits he was a little anxious when sharing them with his Client Services rep.

“I was really nervous about whether I had done it correctly and accurately until we met again,” Lunsford said.

When the two met again, the Client relations representative was in shock at how much Lunsford accomplished.

“I really didn’t understand why he was in shock,” Lunsford said. “I’m still baffled why he was so amazed. It really didn’t seem that complicated to me. Once I got it going, the software is really easy to use. No offense but it’s user-friendly. Two chimpanzees could use it without a banana. It’s not hard stuff if you read the instructions.”

Lunsford added that the Transfinder Community, an online resource for Transfinder clients that is filled with videos, checklists and how-to documents, also made the move to Routefinder PLUS easy.

He even took one of his Transfinder classes while on vacation at the beach in Ocala, Florida.

“That’s how much I believe in the software and how much I believe that Transfinder has been a benefit to me,” Lunsford said. “It has helped me and encouraged me to do my job better.”

All this contributes to his having fun at work, he said.

“I love working at Palmer Bus Service and for this school district but what makes it a lot easier is when you have the right tools,” he said. “This stuff can be fun. This stuff is not hard. What makes it fun is this tool that can be used to provide safety and effective driving for your drivers and your students. We want to put in our routes in a safe and cost-effective manner that’s timely and gets everyone here and gets them home. That’s all! If you read more into it or try to make it overcomplicated, you're just hurting yourself.”