by Paul Goraczko, Think Green Correspondent
Montgomery County Community College recently finished installing a new website in partnership with TransLōc, which will allow students to track the location of the campus shuttle in real-time as it moves along its route from Central Campus in Blue Bell to West Campus in Pottstown.
Gregg Heimer, a Senior Network Engineer at the College, was at the helm of the project.
Heimer felt empathy for students who had to wait outside for the shuttle in the cold winter months.
When he left campus each day, Heimer would see students “wasting time peering out the glass window” trying to determine when the shuttle would arrive.
“I knew there were better ways to track such transit vehicles,” Heimer said.
After conducting research and experimenting with demonstrations of various transit-tracking providers, Heimer applied for an internal grant from the College Foundation.
The TransLōc system was installed within 30 days of the grant’s provision.
The new app has instantaneously empowered the shuttle’s riders.
“Students want information at their fingertips,” Heimer said.
TransLōc gives students exactly that. The website uses an automated GPS tracker that allows students to see where the shuttle is located along its route using a map that is powered by Google.
The map is updated every second, thus it eliminates the need to sit and peer out the window to determine if the shuttle has arrived on campus.
“Putting myself in the students’ shoes, I would want to utilize as much time as I could on campus and not waste time waiting for transportation,” Heimer said.
Students can access the website or download the free app for their mobile devices at mccc.transloc.com or by scanning the QR code to the left.
The application is available for iPhones, iPod Touches, iPads, as well as for Android Smartphones and Tablets.
Students who download the application will also be given access to announcements that might impact their ride, including shuttle arrivals and possible shuttle delays and/or cancellations.
The system also includes updates to a digital signage system located at the Advanced Technology Center.
Heimer believes that the new technology will be a welcomed part of students’ commutes.
“Mobile apps are always in demand…and this adds another tool to satisfy that demand,” Heimer said.
Riders without smartphones can also benefit from the text-based arrival predictions by signing up for text alerts. To be notified of estimated arrival times at West Campus (South Hall) riders need only to text “MCCC 074” to 41411. For notification of Central Campus (Advanced Technology Center) arrival times riders need only to text “MCCC 282” to 41411.
The College is not the first higher education institution to partner with TransLōc. The mobile tracking app is implemented at universities such as Yale, The University of Arizona, and The University of Chicago.
Colleges that have previously implemented the app are content with the results.
Ed Bebyn, Manager of Parking and Transit at Yale University, said “TransLōc is easily the biggest factor to [Yale’s transit] system being successful.”
Bebyn even reported that he would rather get rid of other on-vehicle amenities than get rid of TransLōc.
Additionally, transit systems using TransLōc have reported increases in ridership of more than 15%.
It’s unclear how the technology will affect ridership just yet, but Heimer and many others at the College believe that an increase in ridership can only be expected.
If MCCC’s implementation of the tracking technology yields similar results, the shuttle will continue to make not only ecological sense, but also economical sense—as the cost per rider will decrease with the increase in ridership (just as it has done in the past).
Overall, the new technology is just one more way that the College is encouraging its students, faculty, and staff to ‘go green.’