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Dartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of EngineeringDartmouth Engineer - The Magazine of Thayer School of Engineering

Student-Built App Minimizes Bus Stop Wait Times

By Anna Fiorentino
May 2016 • CoolStuff

Until this year, riders of the local Advance Transit bus service could only guess when the bus might pull up to their stop. About 80 percent of stops operate on a five- to ten-minute interval—not ideal for anyone on a tight schedule.

So in February, a team of Dartmouth engineering students launched an app to help minimize wait times for Advance Transit commuters. Like Uber, the app leverages real-time smartphone technology to keep riders informed about the location and projected arrival time of their bus.

"With the app, riders now know exactly when the bus will arrive, and can time their schedule accordingly. This is especially useful when the bus is delayed," says Don Stayner, a BE student and app team member along with fellow BE candidates Roxana Gheorghe, Paul Donnelly, and Nicolas Gutierrez '16, as well as Adam Grounds '16. Gheorghe and Gutierrez worked on the Android side of the project, while Grounds and Donnelly took on the iOS version. Stayner contributed to both code bases and acted as project manager.

Advance Transit app screen shot

"Advance Transit has been interested in developing a mobile app for several years and partnered with Dartmouth at the suggestion of Dean [Joseph] Helble to make the opportunity available as a capstone project through ENGS 89/90," says Stayner. "I signed up to build the app because it was an exciting opportunity with the potential to have a positive impact on the local community."

Through a partnership between Advance Transit and Thayer's Cook Engineering Design Center, the students completed the app despite having no prior development experience with iOS or Android. The app has now been downloaded more than 1,200 times.

"When sizing the market, we estimated that there were between 800 to 1,000 active bus users with smartphones, so we're super happy with the overall number of downloads," says Stayner.

The interface shows a map of Advance Transit’s five routes with 163 stops. Users tap on a stop to pull up real-time bus arrival information in a list view, or they can see an interactive timetable for trip planning.

"The app has been very well received by users, and currently has seventeen five-star ratings on the iOS app store," says Stayner.

Although the app has been a complete success, the group still sees room for improvement.

"One of the largest unaddressed use cases is full integration with the Dartmouth shuttles," Stayner says. "We feel that fleshing out this functionality could be a good next step for the app—potentially for another ENGS 89/90 group."

Tags: innovation, projects, students

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