With 25,000 students and United States’ highest transportation costs, by school district, the Boston Public School District needed a better way to get kids to classes. They turned to an algorithm to route the school buses. Simply, a team of researchers wrote a code to optimize school bus routes, helping the public school system save $5 million.
With no clear vendor to turn to with this problem, BPS instead sought out experts, hosting a competition where researchers could experiment with anonymized BPS data sets to create efficient routes and optimal start times for each school
So the team worked to swap the start times of high schools with elementary schools in the district, and optimize the start times based on route feasibility, teen health, parent preferences, and equity. Their school start time algorithm explored the tradeoffs to different start times, and found a balance point between all considerations. If it had been deployed, it would have changed the number of teenagers with early high school start times from 74 percent to just 6 percent.
I am very confident that Lagos needs that type of code for the public transportation network, and (who knows) the privately-run danfo, molue and taxis. But a code for Apapa Port may have to come first for trucks entering and exiting the nation’s largest port terminal. Software can “eat” most of the paralyses in Nigeria.
Boston did not award any contract – it simply opened a competition and asked the geeks to submit codes and test with anonymized city data. May the best code win. The best won and Boston is keeping $5 million yearly as saving. Nigeria needs to open fixing Apapa gridlock to our techies to help. I promise you that our young people will fix that problem immediately if the big people can just make way!
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