GPS implementation to help gauge shuttle wait times

Helena Oh

Students have one less excuse for being late to class now that they can track the status of campus shuttles online.

Thanks to new Nextel phones installed in each shuttle and a satellite that transfers information from the phones to computers, students can monitor campus shuttles from an ASG Web site.

Students and administrators hope that the Global Positioning System, which began operating in September, will encourage more shuttle usage and therefore keep students safer.

“It was always a gamble that you’d be able to catch (the shuttle),” said Alia McCaffrey, a Weinberg sophomore. “The more people using the shuttle and not walking by themselves at night the better.”

The shuttle tracking system, which costs the shuttle service about $200 each month, uses GPS technology that updates shuttle positions every 90 seconds, so students can estimate when a shuttle will arrive at its stop.

The system was adopted in response to student complaints, said Debra Garfi, senior manager of University Services, who said she received e-mails about the delays from upset students “all the time.”

“Anytime we change something, it’s always student driven,” Garfi said.

Vishal Ruparelia, a Weinberg senior, has had to walk four blocks from campus to his off-campus home late at night after missing the shuttle several times this quarter.

“It’s scary walking a couple of blocks from campus, because there are no security patrols for off-campus students,” Ruparelia said.

Ruparelia has also had to walk to class 10 times this quarter after missing the shuttle because it was either too late or too early.

The system was installed last March but wasn’t up and running until September because it requires a sophisticated server that allows 90-second updates. ASG now hosts the Web site for free on the organization’s server.

A prominent link to the shuttle tracking Web site may be created on ASG’s HereAndNow Web site if senators pass a bill tonight proposed by the security subcommittee of the Student Services Committee.

“(The tracking system) will be a step in seeing less attacks and improving the overall security on campus,” said Jessica Joslin, an Education junior and co-author of the bill.

For now, NU shuttles can be tracked at http://groups.northwestern.edu/gps. Some shuttle service will be interrupted today because of road closures.

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