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Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
October 23, 2007
DeKalb, Ill. — Northern Illinois University students can now easily track the near-real-time location, speed and direction of Huskie Buses.
Research scientists Phil Young and Rick Schwantes in the Department of Geography’s Advanced Geospatial Laboratory, working in collaboration with the Student Association and Huskie Bus Line, recently launched Huskie Tracks, which utilizes a Global Positioning System (GPS) to track the movement of the buses along their routes.
Huskie Tracks can be accessed online at http://huskietracks.niu.edu via a personal computer, the Apple iPhone and Apple iPod Touch. It also is expected to work on some Web-based cellular phones equipped with a browser and Windows CE operating system.
Students also can keep tabs on bus locations along each of seven routes using any one of three 50-inch monitors located on campus, two in the Holmes Student Center (near the Coffee Corner and Subway) and a third at DuSable Hall.
Young said the hope is to eventually install monitors at other locations on campus, including residence halls, and expand the system to include Late Night Ride services and FreedomMobile, a service for persons with disabilities.
“Our primary intent was to help students reduce their wait time at the bus stops,” Young said. “We think it will be especially useful during cold, rainy or snowy weather, when students don’t want to wait longer periods for the bus. This tool will help them arrive right before the bus arrives, or will alert them if they’ve just missed the bus.”
The Huskie Bus Line provides a free service to all active NIU students with a valid NIU OneCard. It also serves members of the general public, who pay 75 cents per ride.
Bus routes serve the main NIU campus, including classroom buildings, parking lots, offices and residence halls as well as routes heading off campus to local apartments, shopping centers and food establishments. One route serves the Sycamore shopping areas as well.
“We’re hoping as this system is used more that some of the bus-monitoring screens will be placed out at shopping destinations, such as Wal-Mart or Target, so students know exactly when the buses are coming,” Young said.
All of the Huskie Buses are equipped with transponders, which emit signals to the tracking system every 30 seconds. The Huskie Tracks Web site is automatically updated every 15 seconds.
The NIU Student Association manages the Huskie Bus Line, owned by Veolia Transportation.
“I’m exceedingly pleased with the results I’ve seen,” said Brent Keller, Director of Mass Transit for the NIU Student Association. “So far, the system has been used moderately by students, but we’re hoping usage will increase as time goes by and more students learn about it.”
The Student Association spent $19,500 on the system, taking advantage of in-house expertise at NIU. Huskie Tracks is an extension of the NIU Virtual Campus Web Map system launched in 2005.
Huskie Bus Line General Manager Al Davis said complaints about late buses have gone down since the Huskie Tracks system launched in late September.
“I can only assume students are using Huskie Tracks because there has been a change in the number of calls we get asking where a bus is at,” Davis said. “There also seems to be a lot less congestion on the buses. At certain times, everyone used to try to jam on one bus, which would slow down our drivers. That’s not so much of an issue this year. Riders can see when another bus is coming.”