UI looks to launch Cambus tracking site


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University of Iowa students could soon see Cambus locations on their cell phones.

Cambus is collaborating with the Iowa City and Coralville transit systems on developing online websites that would show riders when buses will arrive at certain stops.

The new system will show riders where a bus of any of the three transits is in real time. The information will be available to all students and community members through each bus system’s website, mobile devices, or by telephone.

Romy Bolton, a research and project leader, said the idea sprouted from an Information Technology Services project to launch a mobile website for the UI. Through the development of the mobile web page, Bolton said, the idea of a Cambus tracking system came about, and that led to the collaboration among the three systems.

The UIsite is set to kickoff in time for the 2010 fall semester, but the three transit systems are still in the planning process. UI officials are completing negotiations with a potential vendor, though no contract has been signed.

The cost of initial installation for the UI’s system is roughly $125,000 with an annual upkeep of approximately $50,000, Bolton said. The costs include automatic passenger counters, an alarm system, engine diagnostic data, and mobile Wi-Fi.

Essentially, the system will work through GPS transmitters placed on each bus, which would send back a signal every 10 seconds.

Chris O’Brien, the director of transit for Iowa City, said the idea had been on the city’s radar for numerous years.

“This collaborative idea really helped planning start up again,” O’Brien said.

Vicky Robrock, the director of parking and transportation for Coralville, said the collaboration among the three systems would be beneficial.

“We are all looking at this at a coordinate level, so we all offer similar resources,” she said. “Through collaboration, we are reducing costs and making the whole process more efficient.”

Both the Iowa City City Council and the Coralville City Council have to approve the plan.

Several universities have online bus tracking services including the University of Michigan</a>, Pennsylvania State, and Ohio State.

Bolton said officials have discussed the idea with students.

“The students are super excited about it,” she said. “For us bus riders, it is clear that this system would be beneficial.”

UI freshman Ryan Riemersma, who rides a Cambus almost daily, said he would make use of the system.

“I think this is a really good idea,” he said. “It would make it a lot easier to get around campus.”

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