Bus GPS system sees expansion

Administrators plan to announce recent improvements made to the Yale’s bus system this week, including an expanded online bus locator and new service to Union Station on the nighttime Blue Line.

The locator program, which utilizes the satellite-based Global Positioning System, provides real-time information on bus locations over the Internet. It is one of the first of its kind among universities, administrators said, and is expected to reduce the number of people forced to wait at bus stops.

Yale buses such as this one are becoming easier for students to find, thanks to an expanded GPS locator system announced by transportation officials.
Ryan Galisewski
Yale buses such as this one are becoming easier for students to find, thanks to an expanded GPS locator system announced by transportation officials.

Following the success of a pilot program over the last few months, a GPS locator system that lets anyone with Internet access view bus locations in nearly real-time is ready to be rolled out across the Yale bus system, said Janet Lindner, associate vice president for administration. The program was initially installed last December in 10 buses on the Blue Line, which is the main daytime line, and it was extended in February to an additional 10 buses. Yale now has enough buses equipped with the technology to cover all of its scheduled routes day and night, Director of Support Services Don Relihan said. Administrators waited until now before officially unveiling the program to ensure that it was working properly, he said.

The nighttime Blue Line is also seeing changes with the recent addition of service to Union Station every 15 minutes from 6 pm until 1 am. Recently, dispatchers have been receiving an increasingly large volume of requests for door-to-door service from points along the Blue Line to the train station at night, Relihan said. The additional stop adds five minutes to the transit from Central Campus to the medical school, but Relihan said there have not been any complaints yet.

Real-time GPS had been used only by North Carolina State University when Yale began testing the system, and Relihan said only a handful of other universities are even in the testing or pilot phase.

GPS is not new to Yale. The campus mail and Traffic, Receiving & Stores vehicles have had GPS for several years, helping dispatchers to direct them more efficiently. The system installed on them signals each vehicle’s location only every 10 minutes, a far easier system to implement than on that operates in real-time.

The ability to see buses’ locations will allow passengers to wait in their offices or dorm rooms until the bus is close to a stop, he said, helping to avoid the problem of riders sitting at an empty bus stop, not knowing if a bus is one or 10 minutes away.

The new service is expected to benefit staff as well as students. Many staff members have business on both the Central Campus and the medical school campus, requiring them to drive back and forth — over 100 employers are currently allotted parking in both areas. If waiting for the bus is no longer an inconvenience, staff will be able to skip driving between the two campuses.

Some students said they expect the real-time GPS system to be useful, but worried that it could be difficult for many to use.

Jennifer Wang ’10 said she knows of schools where students can call in to an automated phone system, enter a code for a specific stop and hear how far away a bus is from the stop. The advantage to that kind of system, Wang said, is students would not need a computer or phone with Web access in order to locate buses.

Danny Townsend ’10 applauded the idea of a GPS locator, but said his schedule may render the system useless to him.

“Most of the time I’m taking the bus from class to class,” he said, noting that he had little control over what time he could reach the bus stop.

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