Campus transit app in beginning stages

The proposed app would put the University’s transit resources in one place, making it easier to order rides and check schedules.

by Michelle Griffith

Students at the University of Minnesota are working with partners on campus to create an app that covers transit options for University members. 

The Minnesota Student Association is collaborating with Parking and Transportation Services, among other departments, to create an app that allows students, staff and faculty to request transportation, check schedules and gauge wait times. MSA and PTS met in October to discuss ways to move forward with the app. 

Gopher Chauffeur, 624-WALK, GopherTrip and the University’s Paratransit Services will be accessible through the proposed app, said Lauren Meyers, MSA’s infrastructure committee director. The committee is still determining if the app will include Metro Transit options available on campus, Meyers said, because many students already use the Metro Transit app.

“This campus is really lucky in the sense that we have so many transportation resources that are really awesome for students,” Meyers said. “We thought compiling these resources into one app is going to be the best [thing] for students, especially at night when they need to get home.” 

Currently, students need to use separate websites or resources to order a ride or check bus times. 

University neuroscience sophomore Danielle Huey said an app like this would be useful because it puts transportation options in one place. 

“Right now, Gopher Chauffeur takes an hour to get to my apartment,” Huey said. She added ordering a ride off the app would be easier and less stressful. 

Last winter, the Long-Range Student Safety Committee, a group consisting of administrators and students that works to improve campus safety, recommended a similar app, Meyers said. 

After the MSA team started working to initiate the app last year, Meyers said she decided to continue the project this year. Because different departments are needed to coordinate for the app, the timeline for the project is unclear. 

Some students are not very comfortable calling 624-WALK or Gopher Chauffeur to request a ride, Meyers said. She said she believes an app would ease the burden for students. 

The app would be useful to faculty also, like Facilities Management employees who work late into the night and use University transportation, Meyers said. 

Gopher Chauffeur and 624-WALK have employees to answer calls and order rides. An app could eliminate that step and save the University resources and money, she said. 

However, creating an all-encompassing app could be difficult and time-consuming, said Jacqueline Bass, a spokesperson for Parking and Transportation Services. Additionally, Bass said 624-WALK and Gopher Chauffeur are not data-driven and rely heavily on people, which would complicate creating an app. 

“We’re definitely open to new ideas,” Bass said. “It’s just how you make ideas a reality — sometimes it’s possible and sometimes it’s not.” 

Communications studies senior Taylor Rink said she believes an app “would be a great idea.” Rink said she thinks the times for the Gopher Trip app are not accurate, so she hopes this app could fix some of those inaccuracies.