SGA pilots DoubleMap GPS feature for buses

Butler University and Student Government Association launched a new pilot service last weekend that allows students to track campus shuttles via GPS from a variety of platforms.

The system, called DoubleMap, will be free to Butler students for an undetermined period of time on a trial basis.

“It’s kind of three-way beneficial,” Rob Miller, assistant director of the PuLSE office, said. “It’s beneficial for the students that will use our shuttles, it’s beneficial for the university and SGA operations board because there’s no cost, and it’s beneficial for [DoubleMap] because they’re gathering data.”

With DoubleMap, students will know not only when the shuttle will arrive but also its exact location relative to them.

Students can view the program at bu.doublemap.com/map and visit the link from any computer, laptop, smartphone or other internet-accessible device. A satellite map will be displayed with the shuttle’s routes already drawn out. When the shuttles are running, the indicators move on the map in real-time.

The website is compatible across all platforms, including iPhone, Blackberry and Android.

For those without 3G or 4G coverage, Kelsa Reynolds, vice president of operations for SGA, said a smartphone application is on the way.

“To be able to get the app, we had to first launch the website, and now the company will be working on setting up an app for us to be able to utilize on smartphones,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds said the main concern from students regarding the shuttles was students being forced to stand outside in the cold, not knowing when a shuttle would arrive, according to surveys administered through SGA in spring and winter.

“I know students who are used to waiting out in the cold that really appreciate it,” Peter SerVaas, DoubleMap co-officer of operations and development, said. “Getting it installed as fast as possible was important. We’ll be able to beat winter, basically.”

With the launch occurring only a few days ago, student feedback is still coming in.

“I would use the service to find the shuttle if I needed to know, but it’s not going to make me ride it more,” junior pharmacy major Lisa LeCleir said.

Miller said the reason Butler was chosen for the pilot program was primarily to compare the system’s effect on a smaller campus to its success in larger areas like Bloomington, where the system is used at Indiana University.

“DoubleMap came to us and said, ‘We’ve seen it work on larger populations, and we want to see if it will work on smaller populations,’” Miller said. “The reason we decided to try it was to find out: Are Butler students interested in it? Does it make the shuttles more functional?”

DoubleMap started as a student government project at Indiana University and has evolved into a company.

Ilya Rekhter, DoubleMap operations and development co-officer, said their program works better for smaller schools.

“You have big schools with big budgets that can afford to use expensive bus tracking systems,” she said. “With our systems, they’re even more applicable to smaller schools, because there aren’t any large upfront costs.”

SerVaas said it has been successful in terms of what it offers students.

“We want to eventually show Butler what the system is capable of and allow the university to evaluate its value to their students, as well as those who operate the system,” he said.

Rekhter said the real-time features are also major advances for the system.

“I’m really excited because they update every one to two seconds, so they move really seamlessly,” Rekhter said. “Our old system moved every seven to 10 seconds.”

SGA runs one shuttle every Friday and Saturday to and from Broad Ripple and Glendale Mall starting at 7:30 p.m. and another  to downtown on the first Saturday and Sunday of the month starting at 2 p.m.

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