Rural School Vehicle Routing Problem

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

infrastructure - vehicle, planning - methods, economics - operating costs, place - rural, mode - bus, mode - school bus


Tabu search, School buses, Rural areas, Routing, Ride time, Operating costs, Mathematical models, Heuristic methods, Cost of operation, Algorithms


The school bus routing problem traditionally has been defined in an urban context. However, because of the unique attributes of the problem in rural areas, traditional heuristic methods for solving the problem may produce impractical results. In many cases, these characteristics also provide the opportunity to investigate what size and mix of vehicles, whether large or small buses, conforming vans, or other modes, are most efficient. In addition, these vehicles may be further differentiated by the presence of equipment for transporting students with special needs. To address this situation, a mathematical model of the problem was constructed and a new heuristic was developed. This heuristic consists of two parts: constructing the initial route and then improving it by using a fixed tenure tabu search algorithm. This rural routing heuristic, in addition to several existing ones, is then applied to a randomly generated school district with rural characteristics. For the relevant measure, a function of student ride time, the new heuristic provides a set of routes superior to those produced by existing methods. Because ride times produced by the new heuristic are lower than those for routes generated by existing methods, the likelihood of injury to students may decrease. Also, with the cost of operation for each route calculated in dollars, a comparison of solutions in financial, as well as temporal, terms is possible.