Live bus tracking coming to Eau Claire soon

When temperatures plummet, avoiding the infamous “top ten coldest places in America” footbridge becomes a priority.  A new resolution passed by Student Senate will increase the convenience of using the bus system.

In cooperation with the city, Senate is working to set up live bus tracking that would be incorporated in the UW-Eau Claire mobile app.

Christian Paese, technology commission director, said the initiative to bring live bus tracking to Eau Claire aligned with the goals of the Information Technology Commission.

“Other schools have done bus tracking and it just seemed like a good fit especially when students complain about the lack of parking available,” Paese said. “We are hoping that if students know where the bus is and if it is a little bit more predictable that that would encourage people to use the bus more.”

With the Student Office of Sustainability on board for bus tracking, the commission originally thought they would have to find an area on campus to fund the initiative that would allow students to see on their cell phones or computers where the buses are en route. However, the city expressed interest in expanding bus tracking citywide and will fund the development.

Bus tracking will be available through the university’s mobile app as well as online for community members, Mike Branco, director of City of Eau Claire transit, said.

He said university students make up about one-third of the bus system ridership. This means students carry some weight with the transit system, Paese said.

“If we want something it gives them a good reason to do it, the reason we used the resolution was to show that students are behind this,” Paese said.

Branco said that it is about making the bus system customer friendly. The city already tracks the buses to see when they are arriving at their stops so it is a matter of extending that to customers for increased convenience.

“People can get a little bit better idea in this kind of weather where the bus is rather than waiting outside for five or 10 minutes,” Branco said. “It is more of a customer service tool than anything. It is more to benefit customers rather than us.”

Freshmen Treya Kragenbring and Caitlin Vandrisse often take the bus to and from upper and lower campus. Kragenbring said live bus tracking is something she would use often.
“If it wasn’t so cold out I wouldn’t want to wait for 10 minutes,” Kragenbring said. “I would want to see where the bus is and see how long I would have to wait.”

Vandrisse said it would be especially helpful to avoid the cold weather on upper campus due to the fact that it is hard to see the bus coming from inside the dorms, which leaves her guessing on timing.

The ball is now in the city’s court, Paese said. They’re working to find a vendor that is right for them, but he said he thinks it is safe to say at this point, the bus tracking is going to happen and is going to benefit students.

“It just makes it more convenient to students and, hopefully, it will encourage increased ridership so you don’t have to drive around looking for a parking space,” Paese said.

The committee hopes to explore the potential of having live tracking displays on monitors in academic buildings like Centennial Hall where the on-campus bus stop will be located starting next semester as well, Paese said.