ASG proposes to track shuttles using satellites

Elaine Helm

At sea and in the sky, the Global Positioning System is used by mariners and commercial airline pilots to monitor their locations. If some Associated Student Government leaders have their way, GPS technology could help Northwestern students track campus shuttles.

The bill’s author, Holly Sonneland, said current monitoring systems are problematic because students don’t directly see the results.

“Students just want to know when there’s a shuttle,” said Sonneland, a Weinberg freshman and senator for 600 and 610 Lincoln halls.

“Our goal is really to make the shuttles more accessible to students,” said Courtney Brunsfeld, former ASG student services vice president and a Weinberg junior.

A bill to implement a shuttle-tracking system was scheduled for introduction at Wednesday’s Senate meeting, but was delayed by spring funding.

The proposed system would allow students to locate shuttles on the ASG Web site and possibly receive a cell phone text message or computer instant message when a shuttle comes close to their desired stop, said former ASG Technology Director Prashant Velagaleti.

“The real win with a system like this is not having to look at a map online when you’re (somewhere like) The Keg,” said Velagaleti, a McCormick senior.

The GPS is a network of 24 government-owned satellites orbiting the Earth that can track the location of receivers on the planet’s surface. It was designed initially for use by the Department of Defense.

NU’s Manager of Support Services Debra Garfi, who oversees the shuttle system, said she was excited about the possibility of using GPS after meeting with Brunsfeld and Adam Russell, ASG’s new technology director.

“ASG got very proactive with the shuttles, and we really appreciate that,” Garfi said. “Their idea was very progressive. I haven’t met with (new Student Services Vice President Tiffany Berry), but I’m sure we will meet soon and see where we want to go on this.”

But using GPS, though “a little extreme,” would be worthwhile if students could more easily use the shuttles, said Education freshman Bethany Nicholson.

“It makes more sense for (NU) to spend money on this if it’s going to encourage more students to ride the shuttles that they already pay for,” she said.