Keeping track of new shuttle technology

    Northwestern’s shuttles are now equipped with tracking systems that allow students to follow a shuttle’s route online and get the most up-to-date departure time for its stops.

    The new GPS system, launched at the beginning of the quarter, was installed because Northwestern’s contracts with its shuttle provider, Coach USA, stipulated that the shuttles were accountable for the system, Associated Student Government Vice President Tommy Smithburg said.

    “The fact that it updates times automatically if a shuttle is arriving early or late is one of the best features possible,” he said.

    Smithburg attributed the efforts to install the system to last year’s administration, which included Director of University Services Brian Peters and former ASG Vice President Bill Pulte, among others.

    According to Brian Peters, the installation process took about four months. Now, the Evanston, Ryan Field, Evanston Loop, Campus Loop and Shop-N-Ride shuttles are all equipped with trackers.

    Students can view the map online and choose their desired shuttle in the top left hand corner. The green arrow moves based on a shuttle’s location. Students can click on a shuttle stop to see its upcoming departure times.

    Marge Grzeszczuk, the campus manager for Northwestern’s Chicago Campus, deals with feedback about the new system.

    “I’m hearing, ‘This is great, this is awesome,’” Grzeszczuk said.

    But despite some positive feedback, others say they have never been able to get the system to work. Last Thursday Weinberg sophomore Sonja Marrett said she tried unsuccessfully to track the Evanston Loop so that she could go from Kemper Hall to Allison Hall.

    “We just clicked on it, and we tried it, and it just never worked,” Marrett said. “I understand that glitches happen when there is new computer programming, but if it’s supposed to help people coordinate catching the shuttle, and it doesn’t work, it’s not very useful.”

    Weinberg sophomore Irene Park said she tried using the tracking system on her phone once, but the map did not load. Yet, despite her own difficulty with the system, she said she has many friends who have not had problems with the shuttle tracker.

    “It seems easy. A lot of people use it,” Park said.

    Whether students find the shuttle tracking system easy to use, they still want more from it. Grzeszczuk said she’s fielded requests for a GPS system for the Free Enterprise System, which includes Northwestern’s intercampus shuttles, the Chicago train station shuttles and the Chicago Express. Students have also asked to access the trackers on PDAs. The Free Enterprise System is working to put a system in place, and the administration is looking into an option for PDAs, Grzeszczuk added.


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