MIT’s route-planning algorithm saved the city of Boston more than €4 million
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Spotted: In the US, Boston provides weekday bus services to children attending more than 220 schools. Previously, teams of public school staff spent weeks putting together the routes serving the district’s 25,000 students. Now, an algorithm developed by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) research team creates a master plan in under 30 minutes.
The algorithm was created three years ago by an MIT Operations Research Center team led by Professor Dimitris Bertsimas. The team won Boston Public Schools’ competition for a solution to its complex school bus route challenge. The winning entry increased efficiency while reducing costs. More than 50 buses were eliminated from the fleet, and the city saved more than €4 million in the algorithm’s first year of operation.
Named Quantum, the bus route mapping algorithm uses information that includes Google’s map and traffic data, school start times, the distance each child must walk to and from their stop, and the additional special needs of approximately 5,000 students. Despite reducing the number of buses, many students’ journey times and distances walked also decreased. Development of the algorithm focuses on making mid-year changes within the system, rather than requiring human input.
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