Before the start of the year, we send home a bunch of information about bus routes, including bus stop times.
I hate sending those times. They are never perfect – in fact, not even close. And there’s no way to make them perfect.
The problem isn’t with the software, and it’s not that we’re morons. The problem is that we have no way of predicting which kids will be slow to load, which ones will be fast to load, which ones will show up every day, and which ones have a seat reserved, but never ride the bus. We cannot predict which neighborhoods will have bizarre traffic and parking situations or which ones will have a random construction project. We cannot predict which students will be clueless about where their bus stop is or which ones will insist they should get an extra stop along the path of the route. We cannot predict who will be new to the district, and – more surprising – who will disappear to parts unknown without letting anyone know.
So, the bottom line is, the bus information is a theory. An educated, thoughtful theory, but imperfect as a guarantee schedule of arrival and departure times from bus stops.
How can we tell what time a bus will be at a bus stop?
We send the buses out with our best theoretical plan and run the routes for five days. On the sixth, the buses will have established when they will be at their stops. The time they arrive/depart next week will be the time they will arrive all year long. That time is the actual scheduled time. We will not send another 4,000 letters home. We just expect families to understand and know that this is the way things work.
The perfectionist in me really hates that, but it is practical and it does bear out our experience for the last sixty-five years.
And when a parent calls next February and says the bus has been late every single day this year, and that it has been coming exactly ten minutes later than the letter said all year long, I try to remember that not everyone has sixty-five years experience with mass transportation systems. To me, the measure of successful routing is that the bus comes at exactly the same time every day from September through February.