Improving Transport for Students with Disability

Travel times by students with autism at a northern Melbourne school have been cut by half as a result of a CMD pilot project.

Students with a disability at the Northern School for Autism in Victoria are spending less time travelling to and from school, thanks to a pilot project by the CMD and partners, to improve transport.

The CMD partnered with the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) to design and implement a trial that applied economic design techniques to improve student travel services. New computational techniques were developed to formulate bus routes and the team designed an auction to efficiently allocate and price the routes.

The quality of student travel services has significantly improved, with no increase in price. Student travel times have been cut from up to two hours each way to 50 minutes' maximum. The timely arrival of buses adds around 200 hours per year to the amount of time the children get at school.

The trial was funded by the Victorian Department of Education and Training, which manages student travel services on behalf of the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

The objectives of the project were to demonstrate how economic design techniques can be used to improve the quality of disability services and harnesses competition to reveal fair and efficient prices.

The CMD’s Director of Policy, Gary Stoneham, worked with partners including Professor Charles Plott at Caltech on this project, which is an example of how fit-for-purpose mechanisms can make a positive difference to the quality and cost-effectiveness of services provided by government.