By Priscila Korb
Waiting for a Stony Brook bus for 15 minutes can seem like a century to someone on their way to class. There could be many reasons for public transportation being late, and not knowing where the bus is or how long it will take can drive the waiting passengers crazy.
However, that can all change with the new GPS tracking system created by a group of students and faculty from the Center of Excellence in Wireless and Information Technology.
According to James O’Connor, director of the Sustainability and Transit Operations, the student-developed project was based on feedback from an advisory group of students. CEWIT formed a partnership with students and faculty from the computer science department to give the Stony Brook community what they wanted.
“It’s a win-win. It gives students opportunities for real world experience and it’s cost effective,” said O’Connor.
The program consists of a GPS router, a tablet for driver interface and a card reader to keep track of the amount of passengers on the bus. All of the information comes together to in software that communicates the capacity of the bus and the estimated arrival time to those waiting.
The system, which was developed at Stony Brook as a part of the curriculum for students in the computer science department, is currently running on two different routes—Hospital/Chapin and the Railroad routes—as part of a pilot program. In the fall 2012 semester, the program will be expanded to the Express, Inner Loop and R&D routes. The project will be completed by spring 2013 when the system will be added to the Shopping, Southampton and Outer Loop routes. Tests on the system will be ongoing from late April until May, according to O’Connor.
The only cost of this new system is that it might increase the transportation fee for students. Since the cost of fuel has increased and the cost of fringe benefits is always changing, the fee did change. However, the software was developed in-house, and it is cost effective, according to O’Connor.
“We have received positive feedback from the advisory group,” he said.
The main outcome of the GPS system, according to O’Connor, is to bring back the bike share program.
“Our goal is that you don’t have to wait for a bus, you can hop on one of the bikes if the bus is taking too long,” O’Connor said.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that buses will not be changing, as well.
“There are always plans to buy new buses,” said O’Connor. They lower the main cost and increase efficiency. “We purchase two new buses every year to replace two old buses,” he added.
O’Connor says that the project also includes a downloadable phone app that will be available in the future.