Without generalizing too much, it is fair to say that transportation people are generally inclined toward action rather than passivity. At this time of year that inclination toward activity is most evident as the calls are coming in and the stops and routes are being changed. The interventionist approach taken by transportation departments across the country is a well learned behavior from years of having to respond to public complaints at start up time.
As part of an organization that has worked with a large number of organizations of all different sizes across the United States and Canada, I have had the good fortune to see what the results of this need to act. Often the results are not good and often they only lead to other problems. To be clear, the negative impact of the results are nearly always not the result of the transportation staff doing exactly what they were supposed to and doing it well. The negative results are nearly always the result of a failure on the part of external administrators to appreciate the complexity and interconnectedness inherent in every transportation operation. Transportation operations would benefit greatly from being able to explain, in clear language, that complexity and to more frequently advocate for doing nothing rather than something.
The issue of the bus stop is particularly acute at the time of school start. One of the most maligned and misunderstood components of the transportation system. By itself, it seems harmless, innocuous even. A small patch of earth where twice a day a bus stops for a few seconds to collect and drop off the future of America. It is that isolation, that seemingly benign character that makes this bus stop the most fearsome monster in a transportation system. All of the families that either missed or failed to pay attention to any notices that had been delivered about changes to their bussing arrangements now want you to change everything back to exactly how it was. But you have built your system on how it is supposed to be and forces from outside your organization are telling you to change things. How can you demonstrate that the proper thing to do is nothing and allow for a transition period where people adjust to the new schedules? It would seem that this is one instance where complexity and detail can help the transportation manager.
All transportation managers know that two exceptions to policy equal a new rule. As a result, the key is to try to avoid the first exception. Building from the bottom up and demonstrating how even small changes in the location of or timing associated with bus stops can have ripple effects throughout the system has been a successful strategy for many of the organizations we have worked for. This has nearly always included concerns about impacts to tiered routes and student ride times. Educating administrators that during the first few weeks of school bus schedules will improve substantially without intervention, as delays from elementary parents doing "photo ops" begin to abate, and secondary school students being able to remember their locker combinations, commuter traffic adjusts, and so forth. Allowing for a settling out and adjustment period not only allows you to realize the efficiencies you projected it also prevents a second wave of complaints and calls in response to the changes.
The practice of doing nothing is often the most sensible way to not cause secondary problems in complex systems. While it is often uncomfortable not to intervene when people are questioning the efficiency of your system, research in science, medicine and technology have shown the sensibility of the strategy. If you are asked in a Board meeting what you are going to do about complaints it is probably not advisable to say you will do nothing. However, finding a way to do nothing might just be the ticket to peace of mind and shorter work days.