Giving Compass' Take:

• According to research from Carnegie Mellon University, there are affordable solutions that can optimize educational transportation. 

• What kind of funding does educational transportation require? What is the state of school transportation in your community? Could it improve? 

• Read about what school transportation means for educational equity. 

Despite all of the changes that other areas of transport have seen recently, one area still seems stuck in the relative stone age – educational transportation. As part of a report that two colleagues and I at Carnegie Mellon University put together for a course on Smart Cities, we reviewed the current state of educational transportation and made some suggestions on fleet upgrades.

There are a total of 480,000 school buses transporting 26 million students daily. Despite the large volume of passengers, most school buses have not gone through any major technological alterations beyond having added video cameras, and that’s only in roughly 50% of existing buses. This is indicative of an all-around shortage of routing software, GPS, and student tracking technology with only 54%, 33%, and 5%, respectively, of survey respondents stating that they have such technology in their fleets.

The students riding the buses aren’t the only ones feeling the results of the ageing buses and the lack of funds to upgrade them – school bus drivers have generally seen falling wages relative to similar roles in non-educational transportation, and this has led to a shortage of drivers.

Our recommendation starts with a technological investment that would make more meaningful optimization possible. By focusing on investing in GPS systems, student tracking systems, sensors, and then using all of this tech for route optimization across districts, then it will be possible to outfit all school buses with modern technology while saving money in the long-run.

Our findings were encouraging in that a solution is not just possible, it seems to be affordable. Very importantly, there needs to be involvement from the Department of Education and ideally the Department of Transportation to make sure that any attempts to resolve the current issues are done nationally and not in a few, more well-capitalized or more well-coordinated, districts.

Read the full article about optimizing transportation by Eugene Leventhal at Getting Smart.