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Advance Transit to Launch Bus App
Feb 29, 2016 | by Tim Camerato | Valley News
Anyone who’s ever sat down at an Advance Transit bus stop and wondered how long it might take for the next bus to arrive soon will be in luck.
With the help of Dartmouth engineering students, the nonprofit transportation group plans to release its first smartphone app on Tuesday.
The app can be downloaded from both Google Play and the App Store for free, and will provide real-time information on bus locations, as well as estimated times to different stops.
The app has been in the works for years, beginning with a similar function on Advance Transit’s website, said Van Chesnut, the organization’s executive director. A few years ago, he said, the federal Department of Transportation, city of Lebanon and Dartmouth College sponsored a program that led to the “where’s my bus?” online page.
The site also tracks Advance Transit’s fleet of buses across the Upper Valley, but Chesnut said it lead to one problem: the site user had to be sitting at a traditional computer or laptop to read the page.
To remedy that, Advance Transit began to look at how larger cities deliver train and bus information to passengers, and enlisted the help of Dartmouth’s Cook Engineering Design Center, which pairs students with industries seeking workplace solutions.
“We started first with design,” said Don Stayner, a senior engineering student who worked on the project. With 163 stops in the system, many with unmemorable names, the first challenge was creating a user interface that people easily could read and decipher, he said.
That took about two months, Stayner said, and was followed by an effort to survey and speak with Advance Transit’s users. During that time, students collected 500 survey responses, and 44 percent of riders indicated they would take the bus more often if an app was available.
“One of the things that was best for us in designing it was to make sure we involve the community,” Stayner said.
It’s easy to get too focused on the building of an app, he said, but by consulting its potential users, students can make a better product.
When the app is opened on a smartphone or tablet, the user is greeted with Advance Transit’s map of the Upper Valley and its stops. Users can zoom in and click on their stop to see the next bus’ arrival time, and even favorite stops to prevent having to find them again.
The app also allows riders to call Advance Transit, filter out routes on the map and provide feedback.
“It works very nicely. It’s very responsive on a smartphone,” Chesnut said.
The app will only continue to get better: Chesnut encourages riders to try out the app so the Dartmouth students can make upgrades and tailor the website to fit the Upper Valley’s needs.
“We think it’s going to make it a whole lot more user-friendly to learn and use our transit system,” he said.
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