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University of Utah's text message shuttle-tracker part of mass transit push

Published: Wednesday, Nov. 24 2010 12:32 p.m. MST

University of Utah students and staff can now receive a text message to get status updates about bus shuttle services on campus.

Kerry Jensen

SALT LAKE CITY — The days of waiting and wondering when your bus will come are over, at least at the University of Utah.

The U. has augmented its online shuttle-tracking service to include text messaging. Users simply text "UofUbus" and the number of their stop to 41411, and a response comes back almost instantly listing which buses are coming and when.

University officials hope the system will encourage mass transit use as construction projects continue to restrict parking across campus. They want to slash driving on campus in half over the next 10 years.

"The university is moving in the future towards a more sustainable campus, and mass transit is heavily involved in that goal," said Collin Simmons, assistant supervisor of commuter services at the U. "With live tracking features and text messaging, the buses can be more reliable for students and employees. … The more reliable and convenient the service is, the more likely people are to use it."

On Monday, the service received more than 800 messages. That number is sure to grow as more of the U.'s riders, who number more than 2.5 million annually, become aware of it. The U. added two routes last week to Primary Children's Medical Center, bringing the total number of routes to 23.

It's a matter of convenience for students, especially with cold weather setting in.

"I used it twice this morning," said Ashlee Potter, a freshman waiting at the Chase N. Peterson Heritage Center for a ride to class. "I use it for all the buses because I don't want to wait outside if I can wait inside."

Erin June, a junior, said she feels safer knowing when her bus will come so she can wait inside after night classes. "It's nice to know I won't have to be waiting out here at night where it's dark in an unlit area," she said.

The system is based on one developed in 2008 by a Utah State University student for the Aggie Shuttle on that school's main Logan campus. Simmons said the Utah Transit Authority has expressed interest in it as well.

More stops will be added. So far, they include the Union (1), Williams Building (2), Heritage Center (3), South Campus Institute (4), Huntsman Center (5), Field House (6), Stadium TRAX (7), Park Building (8), East Village (9), West Village (10), University Hospital clockwise routes (11), black and yellow Ozone routes (12) and Veterans Hospital and ARUP (13).

To see the live shuttle-tracking map, go to www.UofUbus.com.

e-mail: pkoepp@desnews.com

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