Bus Routing Optimization Helps Boston Public Schools Design Better Policies

Spreading start times allows school districts to reduce transportation costs by reusing buses between schools. However, assigning each school a time involves both estimating the impact on transportation costs and reconciling additional competing objectives. These challenges force many school districts to make myopic decisions, leading to an expensive and inequitable status quo. For instance, most American teenagers start school before 8:00 AM, despite evidence of significant associated health issues. We propose an algorithm to jointly solve the school bus routing and bell time selection problems. Our application in Boston led to $5 million in yearly savings (maintaining service quality despite a 50-bus fleet reduction) and to the unanimous approval of the first school start time reform in 30 years.

This project connects to SDG 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities.

  • Dimitris Bertsimas (MIT)
  • Arthur Delarue
  • Sebastien Martin

Papers and Media

  • Optimizing schools’ start time and bus routes: Paper
  • Bus routing optimization helps Boston Public Schools design better policies: Paper
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