This article appeared in the August 19, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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The kids on the bus

Stephan Savoia/AP/File
Students wait for a bus at a public transit stop in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood in 2006. MIT students redesigned the city’s bus routes, saving $5 million, which went to classrooms and resulted in 1 million fewer miles driven.

Welcome to your Monitor Daily. Today’s stories explore Pete Buttigieg‘s brand of folksy intellectualism, a proactive approach to wildfire prevention, the struggle for peace in Ukraine, a political collision over “granny flats,” and an artistic revival of a traditional Islamic document.

But first, consider the old adage: Look at the big picture. When you do, the results can sometimes be astonishing.

Take Boston, where kids are soon headed back to school. Two years ago, the school system led the nation in costs per pupil for the 25,000 who qualify for bus transportation. Children were often late, despite the annual devotion of about 10 people for a solid month to mapping each school’s bus routes.

Officials decided they needed to look at things differently. So, as Route Fifty reports, they issued a challenge to the Boston community: make it more efficient and cheaper, while still addressing everything from students’ mobility needs to different school start times to very narrow roads.

Two Ph.D. candidates at MIT stepped up, devoting hundreds of hours to the “bold and unusual” request. And their resulting algorithm literally changed the perspective, swapping a focus from each school’s individual routing needs to a more fluid routing system. Routes became 20% more efficient. That meant 50 fewer buses, 1 million fewer miles of driving, 20,000 fewer pounds of CO2 emissions daily, and $5 million more for classrooms. Bonus: Walking and riding times didn’t increase.

There’s another old adage: It takes a village to raise a child. In this case, the village grew out of a commitment to “reinvest in schools and improve the student experience.” And the kids were the winners.

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This article appeared in the August 19, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 08/19 edition