Carnegie Mellon University

Kids Getting on a Bus

More Efficient Transport of K-12 Students through Centralized Planning

In early 2020, Metro21 and the CMU Robotics Institute launched a project with Allies for Children to investigate how machine learning could enable the development of cost-effective and time-saving cross-district bus routes for K-12 students attending charter and private schools.

The rationale behind this project is that school districts are required to provide transportation for all students living within their boundaries to attend schools that are sometimes beyond the district’s borders (e.g., charter schools, nonpublic schools, specialized schools for students with disabilities, etc.). According to Allies for Children data, there are currently more than 25 contractors who provide these daily transportation services in Allegheny County, typically using yellow school buses, for approximately 140,000 school aged children. With few exceptions, most routes in Allegheny County are planned independently by each contractor which causes routing redundancy and high costs for cash-strapped school districts

The baseline algorithm for inter-district bus routing and scheduling of students to non-public and charter schools was first implemented and tested using the non-public and charter school data provided by the Penn Hills School district. Researchers built on this pilot, proving concept efficiency usingan integrated transportation data set from eight school districts in the eastern portion of Allegheny County to identify 38 shareable routes. 

Moving forward in Phase II of the project, the next set of objectives include feasibility of route implementation, benchmarking shared-service transportation for school systems, and building the foundation for a regional model. We are thankful for the continued support by Allies for Children for this project, which in turn is supported by the generous support of the Hillman Family Foundations.

In March 2020, the program found additional applications as schools closed with the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Collaborators developed a strategy foapplying this school bus routing research to deliver school meals, which you can more about here.

applyingthis school busroutingresearch to deliver school meals, which you can more abouthere.PROJECT TEAM:Stephen Smith, Robotics InstituteZak Rubinstein, Robotics Institute Karen Lightman, Metro21



Stephen Smith, Robotics Institute


Project Partners:

Allies for Children

Penn Hills School District

Project Team:

Stephen Smith, Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute

Zak Rubenstein, Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute

Karen Lightman, Metro21: Smart Cities Institute