Wildcat Transit gets update in sustainability and technology
Published: Friday, September 13, 2013
Updated: Friday, September 13, 2013 17:09
Students wanted to know how soon their buses would sweep them away to their next destinations. UNH transportation services gave them the answer.
“When we did the last survey in 2007, people wanted to see more technology, more of the real-time information,” Michael Amicangioli, planning, grant and contracts manager for University Transportation Services, said.
In response to the 2007 Transportation Committee Survey, University Transportation Services was awarded a grant to get real-time information on campus.
Getting the information is a project that has been underway since 2010.
Amicangioli said UNH implemented prediction-based software from a company called NextBus.
NextBus uses a predictor algorithm that takes into account the speed and location of the bus along with the time of day, day of week, season, weather and traffic patterns to provide arrival predictions.
University Transportation Services worked all summer with vendors and campus staff to install equipment onto buses. Equipment includes cellular modems, GPS antennas, three-beam, laser passenger-counters and engine diagnostic hardware.
University Transportation Services also worked with Google Transit and NextBus to program schedule data and service information for the system.
All of this adds up to the UNH real-time bus tracking system for the school year. Between the website, LED panels, text messaging service and smartphone app, University Transportation Services staff never want users to be left wondering where the bus is.
“There’s a 25 percent new group [of students] every year and we want to make them feel comfortable trying transit,” UNH Campus Planner Stephen Pesci said.
Michael Bellamente is the director for Climate Counts, a company that seeks to educate the public on which companies address climate change.
Though Bellamente was not directly involved with the NextBus program, his response seems positive.
“Having NextBus at UNH is like giving students psychic powers,” Bellamente said. “Never again will a class-bound student need to worry if their bus is running 10-minutes late … that’s huge.”
Since the launch, the real-time bus tracking system has gotten students’ attention.
The transit module in the UNH Mobile application displays a user’s location, where the bus is on the map and predicts how long it will take to get to the next destination.
Within the UNH mobile app are 18 modules for students, such as dining, events, WUNH and news.
Neil Larson is a web architect and user interface designer at UNH. According to his statistics via email, the transit module has received around 33,619 cumulative clicks since last December. Dining has received about 24,795 clicks and the campus map has received about 20,657 clicks.
Until the bus tracker, dining used to hold first place for most views. Daily clicks for the transit module rose everyday since the Friday before students returned to campus, according to Larson, until this past week when it plateaued.
Apart from the numbers and statistics, how do students feel about any of the new technologies?
Andrew McEvoy is a sophomore business major. While he rides the buses, he does not use the UNH Mobile app to access bus schedules.
“It’s easier to go on the transit site, I guess,” McEvoy said. “I don’t see the point of having the app.”
Graduate student Samantha Smith, on the other hand, used the app while she sat at the bus stop.
“I just used it for the first time and it seems pretty simple to use. So we’ll see how accurate it is, if it’s here in 10 minutes or not,” she said. “If it works, I think it’d be a good system just because I could still do homework if I knew the bus was going to be another 10 minutes.”
While increasing convenience for students is important to Transportation Services, the NextBus plan is multi-faceted.
The other goals—besides responding to student requests—are to increase transit ridership and reduce the environmental impact.
According to Amicangioli, if UNH can increase ridership on the buses and have fewer people bring their cars to campus, there will be fewer emissions and fewer needed parking spaces.
It seems to be a lesson in sustainability.
“The biggest thing about sustainability is just making the system accessible to riders to try and increase ridership,” Amicangioli said.
Amicangioli explained that the campus is in an ozone non-attainment zone. Therefore, the region UNH is in does not meet every air quality goal set forth for it.
To increase ridership is to move closer toward that air quality goal.
“So as a transit system, we try to do everything we can to improve on that. And that’s where the CMAQ [funding] comes in,” Amicangioli said. “We’re trying to go through every step we can to improve the air quality. … You can see maps of different regions of the state that don’t meet the attainment goals. So, it’s kind of stewardship towards the region. We’re doing what we can to get people off the road to try to reduce as many emissions as possible going into the air.”