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BruinBus implements alert system allowing riders to text for shuttle arrival times

By Kavitha Subramanian

Sept. 24, 2010 12:47 a.m.

It’s dark outside, and a student is alone at the bus stop with no clue of when the next UCLA shuttle is set to arrive. For all she knows, she may have just missed it.

Her best option? Stand in the dark and wait until her ride does come.

UCLA Fleet and Transit, however, is taking action to try to prevent this situation and make riding UCLA shuttles easier for students, faculty and visitors, said Maria Collins, UCLA transit manager.

UCLA Fleet and Transit has implemented a system that allows riders to find out in real time when the next shuttle will reach their stop.

The shuttles, now re-branded BruinBus to emphasize their UCLA-only service, never followed a timetable, but rather circled the campus and nearby buildings at regular intervals. Furthermore, before the new signs were put in place, the old signs did not directly indicate what bus was stopping there.

“Now students can make better decisions about when the bus is coming,” said Sherry Lewis, associate director of UCLA Fleet and Transit. “They don’t have to stand out there any longer than (they) need to.”

The BruinBus, free of charge, currently follows three main routes, with stops at places such as the Medical Plaza, Wilshire Center, Weyburn Terrace and the Hill.

The real-time feature is available online and by telephone.

Passengers can watch live bus traffic on a map on the UCLA BruinBus website, and can also call the number posted on bus stop signs to find out when the next bus is scheduled to arrive.

“I’m probably going to use the online (method),” said Nolan Nishimura, a third-year electrical engineering student. “Before it was kind of a drag, because you had no idea when (the bus) was going to come.”

The transportation office also set up a text and e-mail alert system, which alerts riders of when the next few shuttles will arrive in a certain hour. For example, if a student finishes class at 2 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, the system will send an alert of when the next shuttles will arrive at the nearest stop.

“Then you can know whether you have to rush out or you have time to speak with your professor or talk with your friends,” said Maria Collins, UCLA transit manager.
The change to the shuttle system was brought about mostly by student input, Collins added.

“Students came to transportation and told us what they wanted,” Collins said. “When we put the program out there on Sept. 7, right away people were getting their cell phones out (to check times).”

Collins said students also asked for extended hours on the campus express shuttle, which runs from MacGowan Hall to Weyburn Terrace. Beginning Monday, the shuttle will run from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., an hour later than it runs now.

The second request Collins said students had was a way to get from the Hill to Ralphs, Trader Joe’s and nearby pharmacies.

Beginning Saturday, students will have access to a shuttle going directly from De Neve Plaza and Hedrick Court to the corner of Tiverton and Le Conte Avenues every Saturday morning from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., said Collins.

“Last year, I only went once (to Westwood for groceries) the whole year, just because it was far away, and I didn’t find it worth it to walk all the way down there,” said Perry Reed, a second-year psychobiology student. “With the shuttles, I’ll probably go more often to get snacks and breakfast,” he added.

Planning for the grocery shuttle took a little more than a month to complete, Lewis said.
For both the grocery shuttle as well as the daily campus shuttles, UCLA Fleet and Transit hopes the improved system will enable administrators to gather traffic data and change routes to better suit riders’ needs if necessary, Collins said.

With reports by Devin Kelly, Bruin contributor.

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