NICE Bus uses Optibus’ scheduling software to create better work schedules, with sufficient pre-trip and layover time, diverse routes, and better work-life balance.  -  Photo: METRO

NICE Bus uses Optibus’ scheduling software to create better work schedules, with sufficient pre-trip and layover time, diverse routes, and better work-life balance.

Photo: METRO

Optibus recently released the results of how the Nassau-Inter County Express (NICE Bus), a Transdev operation in New York, uses Optibus’ software to create better work schedules for bus drivers.

Hope Ann Smith, senior transit planner and scheduler at NICE Bus, opened up about the five key elements of what makes a good bus driver schedule. 

How Optibus Helps Create Better Driver Schedules

NICE Bus uses Optibus’ scheduling software to create better work schedules, with sufficient pre-trip and layover time, diverse routes, and better work-life balance.

NICE Bus serves the passengers of Nassau County, New York. Since 2012, the system has operated as a public-private partnership between Nassau County and Transdev. 

Transdev manages all daily operations on behalf of and under contract to Nassau County. It runs 38 fixed bus routes operated by 422 drivers, serving 20 million passengers annually. 

“Just because it looks good on paper doesn't mean it works well on the street,” said Smith. “The service that we're providing is being provided by humans just like me and you.”

Key factors Smith has learned as a driver:

  1. Layover time: Ensuring drivers have enough time during their break to do everything they need to do to get recharged, including getting a coffee, using the restroom, having a meal, stretching their legs, or resting, all in a break location with adequate facilities.
  2. Pre-trip time: Inadequacies in sign-on or sign-off times can cause operators to rush, which puts them, passengers, and pedestrians at risk. 
  3. Interlining: Analyzing opportunities to switch up a driver’s route or driving environment makes the job more exciting, rather than driving the same route day in and day out
  4. Platform time: Creating work schedules that are not excessively long, and that respect work-life balance. 
  5. Data about schedule performance: Run time data shows whether drivers are able — or unable — to make it from point A to point B in the time allotted. When enough drivers can’t abide by the schedule, more run time may be necessary. 
NICE Bus serves the passengers of Nassau County, N.Y. Since 2012, the system has operated as a public-private partnership between Nassau County and Transdev.   -  Photo: Transdev

NICE Bus serves the passengers of Nassau County, N.Y. Since 2012, the system has operated as a public-private partnership between Nassau County and Transdev. 

Photo: Transdev

Oren Hirsch, the primary customer success point of contact for NICE Bus at Optibus since early 2022, discussed Optibus’ software.

“Optibus users, such as Hope, are really good at their jobs,” Hirsch said. “However, software such as Optibus can sometimes ‘see’ opportunities for efficiencies that human eyes might miss.”

Hirsch also shared helpful tips for bus drivers. He said if an operator has an idea for how to improve the schedule, share it with the planning or scheduling team.  

“Not every idea may be actionable or feasible, but the implementation rate for suggestions never made is zero,” he said.  

It’s also important to understand to implement some ideas, there may be some tradeoffs that may not justify the change.  

“For example, generally speaking, it may not be feasible to eliminate all split shifts, but there might be ways to do the runcut so that all split shifts end by a certain time so operators on the late shift are guaranteed straights,” Hirsch added.

Using Optibus, Smith has the ability to make data-driven decisions that prioritize the people behind the wheel while still accounting for operational efficiency and key performance indicators. 

“It [Optibus] also gives you a chance to meet your departmental goals,” she said. “I still report to somebody who wants to see success. So, if we have to go back to the drawing board, we can. Having technology like Optibus gives me that chance to be like, ‘Okay. I'll have something for you by the end of the week.’ You know? Done.”

When trying to improve driver satisfaction through interlining, Smith can use Optibus Scheduling and its preferences capabilities to assess whether interlining also makes sense from an operational perspective.

“To the point Hope makes about how she also has a manager to report to, Optibus’s scenario testing allows management to understand the financial impact of implementing certain proposals,” Hirsch said. “Onboarding new employees or paying overtime to fill open runs due to an operator shortage also comes at a cost. Generally speaking, the cost of eliminating street reliefs on the weekend to make weekend work more attractive may be justified if operator retention increases, especially among the newest operators most likely to work such runs.”

About the author
Louis Prejean

Louis Prejean

Assistant Editor

Assistant editor Louis Prejean works on Metro Magazine and Automotive Fleet. The Louisiana native is now covering the fleet industry after years of radio and reporting experience.

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