Driver shortage puts pressure on service quality

Metro Transit faced an especially severe shortage of bus drivers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency reported a 16.5% decrease in the number of bus operators between March 2020 and the third quarter of 2021. Metro Transit wanted to maintain its routes during the pandemic, notably to ensure that essential workers continued getting to their jobs, but the driver shortage sometimes resulted in bus cancellations and service delays.


Schedulers use MinBus to tackle resource constraints

The HASTUS-MinBus module harnesses GIRO’s most powerful tools for optimizing vehicle scheduling. It enables schedulers to find blocking solutions that reduce the number of vehicles, operator paid hours, and vehicle distance traveled – all while maintaining or improving the overall quality of schedules. Metro Transit turned to MinBus to generate savings and to increase employee retention by improving the quality of duties offered to drivers. The goals were to achieve savings in resource usage and to offer drivers fewer split duties and an improved route distribution per garage.

About Metro Transit

  • Public transport provider for the Twin Cities metropolitan region in Minnesota

  • 36 million rides per year on 125 routes in 2020

  • 900 buses in 5 garages

  • 90 light rail vehicles in 2 yards



Operator equivalents saved


Reduction in street reliefs


Increase in 8-hr runs, preferred by drivers


Industry-wide challenge intensified by pandemic

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the public transport industry’s aging workforce had begun to retire, and not enough candidates were coming forward to replace them

During COVID-19, absences increased due to employees falling ill or having to quarantine, and many public transport employees quit their jobs or retired early

The number of drivers at Metro Transit dropped from about 1,400 in March 2020 to about 1,200 in the third quarter of 2021

MinBus opens up new optimization possibilities

Metro Transit’s addition of the MinBus module to its HASTUS installation opened up new possibilities for schedulers to help minimize the impacts of constrained resources on service quality as well as potentially improving employee retention

MinBus is designed to enable schedulers to find blocking solutions that reduce the number of vehicles, operator paid hours, and vehicle distance traveled – all while maintaining or improving the overall quality of schedules

Quality is addressed by respecting minimum layover times, respecting route distribution by garage, reducing the number of routes per block, etc.

Test demonstrates potential savings

Test to model weekday bus schedules demonstrated that using MinBus could bring the following improvements:

  • Reduce vehicle requirement by 6 vehicles
  • Reduce distance travelled by 275 vehicle platform miles
  • Save 12.5 operator equivalents
  • Save 40 paid hours
  • Increase the percentage of straight runs by 14%
  • Reduce street reliefs by more than 50%
  • Save more than $800,000 in annualized operating cost and capital depreciation

Production schedules confirm real-world gains

Metro Transit used MinBus to generate production bus schedules for 500 vehicles at five garages and achieved the following improvements:

  • Reduced weekday vehicle requirement by 5 vehicles, even though weekday service increased by 90 platform hours and 128 in-service trips
  • Reduced total system-wide layover deficiency by 1h20 each weekday
  • Reduced workforce requirement by 11.5 operator equivalents
  • Reduced street reliefs by 40%
  • Increased the percentage of weekly straight runs by 9%
  • Increased the percentage of 8-hour runs by 6% while reducing 9-hour runs by the same percentage – favoring a more popular run type among operators

Photo credit: Metro Transit

We have made significant improvements in our production bus schedules by using MinBus and CrewOpt. We have saved significantly in vehicles, operators, and operating costs. Meanwhile, we have improved run quality by reducing split work, increasing 8-hour runs, and drastically reducing street reliefs. MinBus and CrewOpt allow us to respond quickly and efficiently to changes in the operating environment. We appreciate GIRO’s partnership in these efforts and their commitment to our success in this project.

Shaun Morrell, Manager of Scheduling and Systems Support
Metro Transit