Pitt installs GPS system on shuttles

By Gwenn Barney

No need to peer down the streets, impatiently searching for a blue and white bus — a new… No need to peer down the streets, impatiently searching for a blue and white bus — a new tracking system installed in Pitt’s shuttle systems allows students to track the GPS location of the shuttles online and through a smartphone app.

Pitt’s Parking, Transportation and Services department installed GPS devices, which will allow students to track their desired shuttles in real time, on all Pitt shuttles on June 15. Smartphone owners can use the free “RouteShot” application, but students will also be able to view their shuttles’ estimated arrival times at pittshuttle.com

The GPS system, spearheaded by Student Government Board member Lauren Jentleson, was installed in the Pitt vehicles for a one-time cost of $10,000. The tracker lists 13 campus shuttles. Jentleson said on Thursday that she didn’t know where the money came from for the GPS system, and Kevin Sheehy, director of Parking, Transportation and Services at Pitt was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.

“The department felt that with the advanced technology available, it was important for the University to provide the best and most accurate information for our students,” Sheehy said on Tuesday. “We understand that time is a valuable commodity to every student, and helping them reach their destination in a timely manner would be a benefit.”

Although Pitt provides a pamphlet of the times that the shuttles run, the shuttles don’t often adhere to it. But now, students will see where the shuttles are in real time, since the electronic tracking device in each shuttle’s dashboard transmits a signal to a cellular device’s operating system, which allows tracking information to appear on a digital map.

On the map, each shuttle’s location is represented by a different colored circle. Shuttles in motion show a white arrow in the center of the circle, and a red square displayed means the shuttle is stopped. The website and app also provide time estimates for when the shuttle will reach each stop on its route.

“It’s definitely a nice luxury for students to have,” Jentleson said. “Hopefully it will alleviate a lot of frustrations students have with the shuttle systems.”

Some of these frustrations include waiting long periods of time for shuttles to arrive, waiting in the rain or waiting while it’s dark.

Sophomore Kami Rodgers hopes the new GPS system will help her avoid a repeat of a situation she encountered this week.

Rodger said that while waiting in Tuesday’s downpour for a shuttle, she found none in sight. With no way to determine when the next shuttle might arrive, Rodgers and her roommate came to the conclusion that the only way to reach their classes on time was to trudge down to lower campus from Panther Hall in the rain.

“It would be nice [to use the GPS] whenever it’s raining,” Rodgers said. “I won’t have to wait outside or be running to catch it.”

Sophomore Chelsea Kon has already incorporated a check of Pitt’s GPS system into her daily routine.

“I use it all the time,” Kon said. “The schedule they have on the bus stop is not really accurate. I always wonder, ‘Can I do something else before the shuttle comes?’ Now I can look and decide.”

Freshman Kendall Tobin agreed with Kon that the Pitt shuttles do not always come at their predetermined times.

“The schedule online is accurate to a point,” Tobin said. “But you can miss a bus by coming late and thinking you’re on time, so [the GPS system] is really useful.”

The new GPS shuttle might even be something for new Pitt football coach Todd Graham to smile about.

Pitt redshirt freshman running back Derrick Burns said that Pitt’s 50A sports shuttle, which carries players from campus to their South Side practice facility, does not have accurate arrival times. But now the players can figure out when the bus is coming by using the GPS system.

“Even for football practice, not to wait in the rain … it would definitely be more convenient,” Burns said.