Campus buses implement GPS tracking system

New technology ensures arrival times will no longer be left to chance.

Cody Nelson

Starting this fall, University of Minnesota students like Adams will no longer need to risk class tardiness by using the campus buses.

A new GPS tracking system will allow students and staff to see when the next Campus Connector, Circulator or BDD Shuttles, for Academic Health Center employees, will arrive by using their computer or cell phone.

NextBus, a system installed in all University buses this summer, is accessible online at the University’s Parking and Transportation Services website, where users will find a fully interactive map.

The map displays information such as highlighted routes, approximate bus location and the remaining capacity. In addition, each stop is clickable and gives the estimated arrival time for the next three buses scheduled.

While away from the computer, smartphone users can take advantage of a mobile website and QR codes available at each stop.

Estimated arrival times for buses at each stop are available by calling or text messaging with a corresponding stop number.

Full instruction on how to use mobile features, as well as a complete list of stop numbers, is available on the PTS website.

Initial interest for implementing the NextBus system originated with the Minnesota Student Association.

MSA president Taylor Williams said that the idea for implementing a bus-tracking system came from Indiana University while at a conference of other Big Ten student associations near the end of spring semester.

After hearing of Indiana’s success with a bus-tracking system, the idea was pitched to PTS, who were “extremely receptive” to the MSA’s proposal. The administration quickly responded and began making the idea reality.

Work on the project began spring 2012, according to Jacqueline Brudlos, PTS spokeswoman.

The project started with the installation of NextBus hardware, which operates using GPS satellites and phone towers, and continued through the summer with some initial testing. The system was only made public late last month.

Brudlos said that public response to NextBus has been positive so far, but limited due to the lack of students on campus.

Williams believes that NextBus will be especially important in the winter. He called the system a “convenient service” and said that it will be nice to have an estimate of when the bus will arrive to avoid standing outside for too long in the winter.

University junior Brianna Lauer thinks the system will be useful, especially with knowing the estimated seats filled on each bus.

Lauer said that not many students know about NextBus and said that it “should be advertised more.”

The NextBus system is being funded completely by campus parking fees and cost about $300,000 for hardware installation and startup costs.

Although Brudlos is unsure how many students will use the system, she said NextBus is a step in the right direction for PTS.

This is the first time a bus tracking system has been implemented by the University.  Because of this, some technical difficulties are expected during the first few weeks.

Parking and Transportation officials are asking for users’ “patience and understanding as we roll-out this new service.”