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Waiting for a bus? Math may help
Cebrina Benson's Georgia Tech bus is equipped with GPS and a computer pad that allow her to drive without a schedule.
May 17th, 2012
02:25 PM ET

Waiting for a bus? Math may help

By Edgar Treiguts, CNN

(CNN) - Georgia Tech student Alexandra Gaigelas takes a shuttle bus to get around the Atlanta campus. Many times, she waits too long for a bus.

"There's nothing more frustrating than standing at a stop, waiting for 10 minutes, getting on the bus and seeing another bus directly behind you.”

And that second bus is largely empty. It's called bus bunching, and it happens when buses are thrown off schedule because of traffic, weather or too many passengers at one stop.

And when those buses are off schedule, the drivers try to adjust. Student Sukirat Bakshi says he's been victim of a bus "drive-by."

“It happened to me where the driver just would not stop at a stop. They would just run off to catch up to the schedule.”

It turns out math can fix the problem. Georgia Tech professor John Bartholdi and University of Chicago professor Donald Eisenstein used complex algebra to develop a kind of anti-bus-bunching formula. They took what’s known as the Markov Chain through the wringer. It’s a math theory that shows predictable long-term behavior.

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