New York School Districts Optimize Routing During Pandemic

School officials in New York are singing the praises of new routing technology powered by Artificial Intelligence Optimization (AIO).

Transfinder, since 1988 a developer in routing, scheduling, and fleet maintenance solutions, released the first major overhaul of its flagship routing software in Spring.

Transfinder President and CEO Antonio Civitella said that Routefinder PLUS – Transfinder’s newest routing solution – is faster, safer, and smarter than previous solutions. After using PLUS during the global pandemic, school transportation officials are sharing their perspectives.

“AIO is the engine that powers the automation, with input from school staff’s institutional knowledge and expertise that takes into account the uniqueness of a district’s region,” Civitella said.

One avid user of the new technology is Nate Spence, transportation supervisor at Somers Central School District in southeastern New York.

“I think it’s going to take just days instead of weeks or an entire month to route a school district, based upon some of the automation that’s in the background and the recommendations and suggestions that PLUS can do automatically,” Spence said.

As a past user of the Routefinder PLUS predecessor, Routefinder Pro, Spence noted that PLUS is intuitive and, for the experienced, does not require extensive training.

“I think the biggest difference is that even if I didn’t go through Transfinder University Livestream, having a little bit of Routefinder background for many years, it’s almost easy enough to teach yourself,” he said. “So, to have to teach a secretary who’s going to be using it is going to be far easier.”

Those who have worked in Routefinder PLUS attest to its speed and efficiency. Clara Rivera, a router and transportation staff member at Ossining School District, located in southeastern New York, said that PLUS is an intuitive system. She said she likes having the ability to amplify where right and left turns can be permissible or prohibited, and avoid areas that can slow down routes, such as regions with numerous traffic lights.

“Routing is simply faster,” Rivera said.

Robert Pakish, transportation supervisor at Hannibal Central School District near Syracuse, New York, notes that the safety features embedded in PLUS, like preventing students from crossing the street to get on their bus, help him focus on the other areas of the district that need his attention. Since district policies can be input into the routing algorithm, it prevents routers from accidentally breaking safety rules.

“The system knows the level of safety I want required for particular trips and makes those changes on my behalf,” Pakish said. “Knowing what my intention is without my having to put that extra time into it, it’s a huge time saver.”

Pakish praised the system’s user interface.

“It has more ways to do what you want,” he added. “It’s not clunky.”

Since he started in the industry 15 years ago, Pakish said he could not foresee the level of responsibility he has now.

“I take it seriously and I dedicate every minute of my day to ensuring that the students in my district are safe,” he said. “It’s programs like this that make my job a lot easier. Having Routefinder PLUS really does allow me to focus on the day-to-day and student safety and driver training, and that’s where I think it’s most important.”