Causes of Boston's Bus Problems

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Today’s Globe has an op-ed decrying the problems with the buses taking kids to the Boston Public Schools — they’ve been plagued with delays since school started.

The article points out two potential causes of the problem — issues implementing a new routing software system and resistance/noncompliance by the drivers union. (Given that their union has seen fit to traffic in the coarsest forms of racially-charged attacks in the past, it can’t be ruled out.)

Other issues, that might not be obvious to non-residents are:

1) Broad eligibility: Any elementary school child over a mile away from their school (or with an intervening major thoroughfare between them and school) is eligible. That’s a lot of kids.

2) Huge coverage area: The BPS lottery system causes a lot of kids to go to schools far away from their homes. Boston is split into three zones and kids are eligible for any school in that zone, so its conceivable that some kid might need a bus from Allston to East Boston, or Hyde Park to South Boston, or Roxbury to West Roxbury; Each one of those is a long drive in traffic.

3) Triple runs: School start times across the district are staggered with start times around 7:30, 8:30, and 9:15, and similarly staggered end times. That allows (we hope) a school bus to do 3 routes in the morning and 3 in the afternoon. What it means is that routes have to relatively short (to be done in the allotted time) and any timing issues (as we’ve had with the new routing software) have the potential to cascade through multiple route (e.g. if the 7 AM run is too long, the 8 AM and 9 AM will be late too.)