Jan 182013

Student load onto the buses at the Christianbury Gym bus stop on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013.   (Aileen Devlin/The Daily Reflector)

Aileen Devlin/The Daily Reflecto

Student load onto the buses at the Christianbury Gym bus stop on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013. (Aileen Devlin/The Daily Reflector)

By Katherine Ayers

Friday, January 18, 2013

The East Carolina University bus system has gone high-tech.

In a partnership between the Student Government Association and the transit office, buses are now equipped with GPS-based “SmartBus” technology that enables students to know in real time when their buses will arrive and allows the transit office to keep a more consistent track of where their buses are, who is driving and how many passengers are riding at any given time. The upgrades also include security cameras and electronic signs and verbal announcements inside the bus that indicate the next bus stop.

Senior Teseanah Broadway said she likes the new verbal cues.

“Sometimes I’m not paying attention, so it’s helpful to hear the announcement of a stop,” she said.

Bus driver Amber Clark, a senior with two years of driving experience, said the announcements make her a safer driver.

“They help students know which stops are which so I don’t have to keep answering questions (and can focus on driving),” she said.

To view bus schedules in real time, students can log onto www.nextbus.com, select ECU from the school system choices, then choose the route they want. The NextBus system is also available via the ECU app where the system uses the phone’s GPS to locate the closest bus route to where the student is currently located.

“This takes the guesswork out and allows students to be wiser about what they do with their time,” ECU Transit Director Wood Davidson said of new technology.

Sophomore Caitlin Effler said she found out about NextBus through Twitter. She said she has not used it much yet but probably would if a class ran late and she needed to catch the bus at a different time than she usually did.

The new technology cuts down on the number of employees the transit office hires. Before, the office used “road supervisors” that would drive around Greenville checking in on the buses. Now all observations are done from a computer and a group of screens at the main bus terminal on Easy Street in Greenville or on laptop computers inside vans to which transit supervisors on campus have access.

“We’re now getting 100 percent of the information we need,” Davidson said. “We can see the whole fleet and it makes a difference from a safety perspective because we can look at the screen and account for all the buses.”

In the fall semester, Davidson said there was an incident where a student was carrying an umbrella that others thought might be a gun. At one point it was believed the student had boarded a bus headed downtown, but when the Greenville Police called the transit office to check, Davidson said they were able to use the new technology to quickly inform police that none of their buses were in motion allowing the police to then focus on the city buses to locate the student.

Graduate student Matthew Kennedy, a telecommunicator who works in the main office, said the new system makes his job easier.

“Before we had no instant access to information and had to call to find out where the drivers were,” he said. “Now we’re able to answer passenger questions about where a bus is without having to interrupt the drivers.”

Davidson said the technology suite was introduced during the fall semester but became 100 percent functional this month. So far, Davidson said there have not been any complaints.

“In the fall about 8,600 students sort of stumbled upon NextBus on their own,” Davidson said. “We feel it’s going to be popular now that we’re actually starting to promote it.”

Contact Katherine Ayers at kayers@reflector.com and 252-329-9567. Follow her on Twitter @KatieAyersGDR.

via The Daily Reflector.


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