Finding a bus has become easier this fall. The University of Chicago's bus system has a new online tracking application that delivers real-time location information through a free iPhone app, smart phones, iPads or Internet-connected computers. Transit riders can now accurately predict when a bus will arrive at a specific stop.
The University of Chicago Department of Safety & Security's Transportation & Parking Division says the tracking system, designed by the company TransLoc, should help decrease time spent waiting outside and let riders plan their routes more effectively.
"In an ongoing effort to meet the needs of our student body, faculty and staff, and to make transportation, in and around the University of Chicago, more accessible, we decided this was the optimal solution for the end user," said Rodney Morris, senior director for Safety & Security, Transportation, Parking and UCMC Public Safety. "This is a huge step forward because this helps strengthen our overall goal of safety around the campus and surrounding areas as well."
The system's benefits will be a welcome addition for many University and Medical Center students and employees.
"Having personal access to reliable arrival times can only be beneficial," said Claire Stone, a third-year student and transit rider. "Even an extra ounce of control over one's commute will be, at the very least, one less thing to worry about."
GPS devices have been installed on all University buses and shuttles to gather up-to-the-minute location data for transit vehicles serving East, West, Medical Center, North and South University routes, and some select CTA routes. That information is then sent back to a server via wireless transmitters and translated into real time to show where buses are on a map.
The interactive map, accessible 24 hours a day, provides transit riders with a view of each route as noted by color-coded markers. Riders can personally customize the map to show a single route or track several buses simultaneously. Additionally, several nearby Chicago Transit Authority routes are included on the map, allowing riders to view various transit options in one place.
Morris said the department worked to incorporate feedback from the campus community, including the Student Transport Advisory Board, the Student Government Association, and the Transportation Operations and Safety Committee. One of the top priorities raised from these groups was getting accurate, up-to-date information concerning bus schedules.
Looking ahead, Morris said the department plans to install flat screens in some campus locations that will show the interactive maps, which also are scheduled to be available on some monitors at the Joseph Regenstein Library, the Barnes & Noble Bookstore and the Reynolds Club.
Although fourth-year Ian Morrow doesn't use a smart phone or an iPad, he said the new system, accessible on his computer, will be particularly useful for traveling by bus during the colder months.
"This would be an incredibly useful tool in the winter to lessen the time one has to wait out in the cold," he said. "Also, if you need to catch a late-night bus, you wouldn't have to wait as long out in the dark."