Diana Gerr ’15 created an online web application in spring 2014 that tracks the Peter Pan bus shuttles. She developed the app as a personal project but did not actively publicize the application other than posting it in a Wellesley-related Facebook group. The app gained recognition when College Government (CG) tasked the Computer Science (CS) club with making a new bus tracker app last fall. A member of the CS club brought Gerr’s app to the attention of CG, who proceeded to publicize the app on Wellesley’s website.Students have not fully adopted the new tracker and are still deliberating whether it is better than its predecessor.
Gerr’s main goal in developing the app was to create a more user-friendly, browser-based app compared to the one already available to Wellesley students. The old app displays the shuttle routes superimposed on a Google map, and uses each bus’s GPS system to track their positions. Gerr discussed the intent of the old app in an email.
“I found it difficult to use in general and especially on a mobile device, which is where I usually want to check bus location,” Gerr said.
Many other students shared Gerr’s opinion that the previously available app was not convenient. Camila Diaz ’15 had problems finding the bus on the old app and said that the new app should be easier to use and more accurate. Christina Pollalis ’16 agreed.
“[The old app] sometimes doesn’t load and you have to access it through a browser. It’s kind of inconvenient when it’s cold outside and you’re trying to touch the little letters on the screen,” Pollalis said.
The appearance of Gerr’s app is much simpler than the old bus tracker. The new app shows the bus’s position on a Google map like the old tracker but does not display the entire bus route. By displaying a condensed view of the area surrounding the bus, it is easier to immediately locate the bus’s position. In addition, the app displays upcoming stops on the buses’ routes. While the new app is more user-friendly than the old bus tracker, it has yet to be adopted by many students.
“My friends and I really don’t know much about it because it’s something we’ve just recently become aware of,” Sarah Cohen ’15 said. “I think a lot of them share the same view that I have. It’s something we’ve been meaning to download; it’s just not been a priority.”
Several students agreed with Pollalis that the new bus tracker should be available as its own application rather than through a browser. Gerr would like to develop a stand-alone application for the bus tracker but simply has not found the time to do so.
Gerr currently maintains the app on her own and is interested in finding someone to maintain it after she graduates.
The transportation table at Ideafest last November came up with a solution to tracking the Peter Pan buses independent from Gerr. Ideafest was an event run by CG last semester where students presented projects aimed to improve the College without aid from the administration. The largest problem the transportation table identified was the unreliability of the old bus tracker app. The transportation table was awarded $300 to implement a program to fix this problem. Isabelle Nettere ’18, who participated at the transportation table, said that poor GPS information was the old app’s biggest problem.
“The main problem is probably just the GPS’s going off the map and not working. We should maybe look into how much updating those would cost and if our funds would cover that,” Nettere said.
Because replacing the GPS system would be costly and time-consuming, the table’s solution was to create a student-updated bus-tracking hashtag on Twitter. This mechanism would rely on students to post when the bus leaves a location and whether or not it would make it to the next stop on time with a pre-specified hashtag.
“Our only concern was that students wouldn’t have incentive to post where the buses were all the time. We were going to do something where if you post a certain number of times you get a free token, and that’s where our funding was going to go,” said Nettere.
However, Nettere was pleased with the amount of traffic on the Wellesley Transportation Updates Facebook page that was launched in early February. This site was developed by Jessica Shin ’18 separately from the transportation table at Ideafest, but based on the concept generated by the Ideafest group. The page has accumulated over 40 posts since its release despite the lack of a financial incentive for students to post.
In the long run Nettere hopes that tracking the arrival times of the buses could alter the Peter Pan bus’s official schedule. By identifying when the bus is consistently late, Peter Pan could produce a more accurate timetable or change their bus routes to be on time.
Photo courtesy of Wellesley College