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Spring 2010
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GIS Powers New Brunswick Student Transportation Services

School District Charts Path to Transportation Management System

Highlights

  • ArcGIS software-based application automatically assigns bus stops to students and provides daily updates to users.
  • Bus drivers and school administrators can instantly view detailed maps.
  • Student demographic data is automatically fed into the GIS application, resulting in accurate and timely updates.

District Scolaire 01 is a French-speaking school district that serves almost half the province of New Brunswick, Canada, including the three major cities, Fredericton, Moncton, and Saint John. Prompted by rapid population growth, the school district overhauled its manual transportation planning system and built a dynamic application that enables safe, efficient, consistent, and punctual student transportation.

The district implements an important safety policy stating that students from kindergarten to grade 5 should not have to walk more than 300 meters from the bus stop to their homes. To ensure this policy was being met, district employees would venture out into the field and physically measure the distance from bus stops to students' homes, then plan routes on paper. This process could take months to complete, and rapid population growth and movement were preventing the district from being able to effectively guarantee the policy.

  see enlargement
A map created in ArcGIS that shows bus routes and stops.

Adding to this challenge was the fact that student address information was being stored in a Microsoft Access database, and anytime students would move between districts or change addresses, the information would be input manually. Because the provincial standard was based on a single user database, there was limited access to student records, and the process did not provide a spatial view of the region to assign bus stops.

In 2005, the district took the initiative to develop its own student transportation management system that would overcome these limitations. The solution: District Scolaire 01 developed an application that could automatically assign stops to students and provide daily updates to users. District staff no longer had to manually plan routes on paper and could now take advantage of a much quicker, more accurate process for bus route planning.

To build the application, the district worked with the Canada Post postal code database and Service New Brunswick's Civic Address Database (CADB) to validate and geocode student and bus stop addresses. It invested in ArcGIS Desktop technology with the ArcGIS Network Analyst and ArcGIS Publisher extensions to automate the process of analyzing bus route scenarios and to

  • Visualize geographic information, planning and managing school bus routes and analyzing and redefining school zones.
  • Ensure respect for district policies on walking distances.
  • Better respond to inquiries to generate digital maps for district reports and school administrations.

The district also built a public-facing Web application that lets parents, students, real estate agents, and other members of the general public search for bus stops and school assignment by postal code.

At the click of a mouse, district staff, bus drivers, and school administrators can view a detailed map of school zones and bus routes within this dynamic district. Student demographic data is automatically fed into the application on a daily basis, which means that the information is always accurate and up-to-the-minute.

"The integration of GIS lets us complete all of our measurements and planning right here in the office so that we rarely need to send resources into the field," says Eric Nadeau, transportation manager, District Scolaire 01. "What used to take up to a month to complete can now be done in less than a week."

Using ArcGIS Desktop, district staff can conduct detailed data analysis when planning bus routes, which has significantly reduced the amount of time that empty school buses remain on the road, saving the district money.

School zones that used to take months to reorganize can now be redefined in less than a week. Parents, students, and other members of the general public can keep up-to-date on changes by plugging in their postal code to view the most current school zones and bus routes.

Most importantly, the district can now honor its walking distance policy to ensure the safety of its students and provide consistent busing service.

The district is planning to switch its Web application over to ArcGIS Server so that it is fully GIS enabled and draws from the same data as its internal application.

More Information

For more information, contact Eric Nadeau, transportation manager, District Scolaire 01 (e-mail: eric.nadeau@gnb.ca).

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