University unveils new shuttle tracking system

Mark Ficken, Reporter
January 28, 2014 •

Standing out in the cold waiting for a shuttle may be a thing of the past. The beta version of a new bus tracking system was made available online Tuesday allowing students to follow shuttles around Chicago and Evanston. 

Run by Indiana-based company DoubleMap, the system places GPS systems onto each bus. Several universities across the country use the service.

“We decided to move to the DoubleMap tracking devices since they are very popular amongst other universities and the user friendly popularity of the system itself,” said Marge Grzeszczuk, transportation manager for University Services.

Because of cold temperatures, the University and shuttle operator Free Enterprise System have encountered problems installing trackers on all the buses. They have also had issues with implementing the system while the shuttles run at full capacity.

(Northwestern orders more shuttles, as campus remains open)

“Part of the problem is that these vehicles are out of their advancing mechanical base for 20 hours a day, so sometimes it’s just a matter of getting the bus back to mechanics so they can install the system,” Grzeszczuk said.

The system intends to end issues with late or absent shuttles. Though the tracker does not account for weather or road conditions, it still allows students to see when buses will arrive, allowing them to plan ahead, Grzeszczuk said.

Weinberg freshman Gus Berrizbeitia used a similar system last summer during his internship at Harvard University. He said he believes the new system will help students plan ahead.

“It shows us where the bus is so I can know, ‘Oh I should go here,’ or ‘Oh no there is no bus coming, and I should give up my infantile hopes that they will actually be coming today’,” Berrizbeitia said. 

Grzeszczuk explained that the system has been in its planning stages since last October, but they didn’t plan to launch until later this quarter. However, because of the increased use of shuttles, they decided to launch early.

“We wanted to put out a perfect package for everybody," she said. "Unfortunately, sometimes getting perfection takes a little time. Safety came in front of perfection here."

Students can access the system online at northwestern.doublemap.com and through mobile apps. In the future, the app will also estimate arrival times at each stop.

Though the tracker will help reassure students that the shuttles are running, some students say the buses don’t run at convenient times.

Weinberg freshman Aundria Myers has a class schedule that requires her to get from the Technological Institute to Kresge Hall in 10 minutes, yet there are no convenient shuttles scheduled, she said.

“They don’t come at a time where I can take them," Myers said. "So I’m having to speed walk down there … I know there’s a 9:39, and that doesn’t help me at all."

Still, Berrizbeitia thinks the system will be a welcome change and help ease up complaints about the system. He plans to get the app as soon as he can.

“I’d even pay for it,” he said.

E-mail: markficken2017@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @Mark_Ficken

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