PWCS to Reduce Bus Stops, Consolidate Routes to Improve Arrival Times

Currently 37% of Prince William School buses are arriving to school late


It is a typical morning bus pickup and one child is running late. He runs down the street only to miss the bus. That's okay. There's another bus pickup on the next corner. Oftentimes, he can run there and arrive before the first child takes a seat. 

Are both stops really needed? Maybe those nearby stops could be consolidated. Next year, they likely will be. 

School bus routes will look very different for Prince William County School buses for the 2024-25 school year. PWCS plans to eliminate 22% of its bus stops and consolidate routes. The division feels this is necessary to ensure buses arrive to school on time.

According to the PWCS website’s summary of the presentation before the school board, the median distance a student will walk between their home and bus stop will increase from 0.10 miles to 0.25 miles. There will be no changes in the proximity of stops for students with special transportation accommodations.

The changes are not that significant. Some PWCS students are already walking 0.2 miles to their stops, and those students categorized as “walkers,” ineligible for bus transportation, can walk or bike up to one mile to school.

PWCS plans to adopt other recommendations to streamline its transportation plan, and that ought to result in bus riders making it to school and home quicker.

Families can register for a webinar to learn more about the changes.

PWCS realized it has struggled with its transportation plan. Across the county, 37% of buses regularly arrive late to school. Since 72,483 of its students ride school buses or 79.4% of district students, there are frequent morning disruptions at almost every school.

PWCS had attempted to hire more drivers but never seemed to have enough. PWC was also limited by the number of buses in its fleet. But was there another option to increase efficiency? The division thought it was worth investigating.

In September, PWCS hired the student transportation technology and consulting company 4MATIV Technologies to analyze and optimize the division’s transportation system. 4MATIV has worked with school districts nationwide, including in the greater Washington, D.C. area.

4MATIV analyzed PWCS’s transportation data and held stakeholder interviews and focus groups with a broad cross-section of students, families, and staff.

The company discovered that PWCS prioritized the proximity of stops to homes, likely to its detriment. Most students are walking 0.2 miles or less to their bus stop. A small change of distance would yield large efficiency improvements.

PWCS also did a poor job of predicting how many seats would be filled on each bus. Since only 71% of planned riders take the bus on a typical day, resulting in an average of 12 open seats per bus trip. If PWCS could get a more accurate number of students who opt out of taking the bus, it could consolidate more routes, leading to on-time performance.

4MATIV recommended that PWCS repurpose up to 39 buses by eliminating up to 22% of stops. Stop consolidation would allow each bus to pick up more students.

PWCS currently has 1,038 trips with less than 10 riders. Stop consolidation and route optimization would eliminate 63 of these trips. Alternatively, the district employs vans or cars to carry routes with few students.

4MATIV said PWC could better use technology tools such as SchoolStatus. Plus, staff could train to improve communication, and a better sync between technology platforms could help drivers respond to situations.

Expanding and improving internal processes, should result in PWCS improving the accuracy of the Here Comes the Bus app. It should also improve the schools' ability to notify parents of late departures. 

Information was provided by Prince William County Schools via 

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