To err is human

To err is human,

  1. to forgive divine. Alexander Pope
  2. to forgive is simply not our policy. MIT Assassination club slogan
  3. to arr is pirate. Seen on the threadless t-shirts website
  4. and to blame it on the computer is even more so. Robert Orben
  5. but to really foul things up requires a computer. Farmer’s Almanac, 1978

All of the above statements are true to some extent.

Recently our school district decide to expedite the efficiency of the transportation system by using new software. On the district website they hail the use of the VeraTrans routing software. Do you know it’s reduced the bus stops by 25%?

Many of the parents I’ve talked to are also complaining bitterly lauding this new technical advancement. And did I mention (I heard this a few times when I called the transportation department) that the fabulous software is GPS based??

We’re having a problem with our bus stop and I’m discussing it with the transportation department mostly with a desire to get it settled before it gets too cold, muddy, or icy/snowy.

There are 5 families (8 kids) on my court that take the elementary school. This is a court, which means that there is only one outlet. This software marvel had us going to two different bus stops. Our next door neighbors (our driveways are like 3-4 feet apart) were going to different stops.

We came to the conclusion that the software might not have taken things like streets into account. After all, the stop they had the neighbors going to is pretty close. If you cut through neighbor’s yards. (There are a few neighbor’s who are well past child rearing stage, that do not want children walking across their pristine lawns — luckily there are also a number of very relaxed, welcoming neighbors).

The rest of us had a stop that was a bit further, and, incidentally across a four lane divided blvd. Actually, it would have been across a four lane divided blvd. but that’s undergoing construction now so it’s just a two lane road.

We’re also thinking that, in addition to not counting roads the software doesn’t understand hazards.

I talked to the supervisor at the bus barn yesterday (figuring that most of the bugs have been shaken out of the system and now she can look at our meager little court) and discovered that they had to completely redraw the busing maps for one of the schools (by hand, hopefully, and not using VeraTrans).

At the alternate stop my daughter is going to (she’s not going to her original stop — the one that crossed four lanes of rush hour traffic — or the one down the street from there — but the one cutting through neighbor’s backyards) we’ll sit there in the morning and count like 10 buses pass the corner. (This is before our bus comes, late, we’re not sure that the kids have made it to school on time, but we are sure they’ve never been there early enough for first bell). One of the buses comes past our stop, turns the corner, and then makes a stop to pick up one child, 264 feet away. That’s less than the length of a football field. So all the kids are running back and forth between the bus stops to visit each other. (How does that save money? Two bus stops within a half a block??)

“It will not only save money,” said Superintendent Alan Leis of the system, “but also move us into the future … We’d been routing our buses by hand using maps for years, and it was just getting too complex and too time consuming.”

Because after all, it’s much more efficient to pay out money to use a new system, which doesn’t work, and then have to redraw everything by hand anyway.

Yeah, yeah, I know, I know, and the software is only as good as the person that programmed it. Which, I suppose, means that the person that programmed the software has no clue about things like kids, and sidewalks.

I don’t know — maybe they’ve seen Back to the Future one too many times. Roads, where we’re going we don’t need roads.

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3 responses to “To err is human

  1. Ugh! All that bureaucracy is making me furious and I don’t even have to deal with it! You must have the patience of a saint.

  2. My kids’ school district is using the same software this year. They just hired humans to come in and “re-evaluate” the “situation”. Ha.

  3. Hmm, I wonder if it’s an issue with outdated GPS maps or something. Our district uses the same system, and it’s been very successful. And by that, I mean it’s saved money AND we haven’t had parent complaints! In fact, our superintendent was just bragging today that we’ve been in school for a little over two weeks now, and he’s just had one call about transportation. That involved a need to change a bus stop, so the director went out to take a look, agreed it should be changed, and took care of it.

    I’d say there’s a “system” problem somewhere in the along with the software issue.

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