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How Do You Fix a School-Bus Problem? Call MIT

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A new algorithm can optimize school bus routes.

Boston Public Schools held a contest to find a more efficient way to route its buses and save money.

Credit: Boston Globe/Getty Images

A team of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has developed an algorithm designed to plot more efficient Boston public-school bus routes, which won a competition sponsored by the Boston school system.

The algorithm can devise a solution in about half an hour by optimizing multiple routes while also accounting for traffic, different-size buses, students with special needs such as wheelchair access, and staggered school days.

The researchers initially paired student clusters with bus stops, and then, using Google Maps travel times to factor in traffic volume, they connected the bus stops into six to eight efficient route solutions for each school. "Next, we combined one solution from one school to another school and to another school to optimize the overall system," says MIT's Dimitris Bertsimas.

Boston Public Schools says the algorithm could save as much as $5 million, 20,000 pounds of carbon emissions, and 1 million bus miles annually.

From The Wall Street Journal
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