MIT algorithm could help Boston schools save millions on bus routes

BOSTON (WHDH) - School officials in Boston are working with MIT to make the city’s bus routes more efficient, which could result in some losing their job, but save millions of dollars.

Two MIT doctoral students have developed an algorithm, which officials at Boston Public Schools say will help the district save up to $5 million.

“It reconfigures bus stops that consolidates some bus routes and allows us to put more students on our buses closer to capacity,” John Hanlon, Chief of Operations for BPS said.

The students developed an interface that reduces the number of bus routes. If used, 50-77 buses would be eliminated. The district says the money saved will be put back into the classroom, but dozens of bus drivers would be laid off in the process.

The school district spends 10 percent of its $1 billion budget on transportation, which is one of the highest rates in the country.

Most of the savings from the fleet schedule is where the bus goes after the 1st school. The school district says students riding the bus shouldn’t see much of a change.

The average length of time for a student’s commute would be under 25 minutes and the distance it takes a student to walk to their bus stop shouldn’t change.

In developing the algorithm, the students beat out experts at Google, Uber and major universities, earning a $15,000 prize.

“When you study algorithms, applied math, and all these theorems, it’s amazing to realize that you can actually use them to make an impact,” Sebastien Martin said.

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