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Bus tracking system is good for students

A new tracking system for Bull Runner buses implemented this month will allow students to follow buses in real time and view estimated arrival times online.

The Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) system, also known as Bull Tracker, will benefit students and help USF Parking and Transportation Services (PATS) improve the bus system.

Students can access the free service online at usfbullrunner.com or receive mobile alerts on arrival times by texting 41411 with their desired Bull Runner’s name. In April, the system will add a feature to track the number of passengers on buses.

No longer do students have to wait at bus stops at night or in the rain. They can time their departures from the safety of buildings based on  bus arrivals.

Crime is not a rampant problem at USF, but the system could help ensure safety. From 2006 to 2008, there were 12 reported robberies, nine reports of forcible sex or rape and 13 reports of aggravated assault on campus, according to the USF Police Department’s Safety Guide.

Emergency Blue Lights are also more concentrated in residential areas and are few and far between at some of the bus stops on the edge of campus.

Anything that improves safety at USF should be applauded.

Some may argue that the nearly $300,000 system is a waste of money. However, it was funded through PATS’ Transportation Reserve Fund made up of the student-paid Transportation Access Fee. The fee is designated for use in supporting transportation infrastructure and increasing student access to transportation services.

It is not as if the money was taken away from another project. The AVL system represents a good use of PATS’ funds. It has had a positive impact on the operation and management of the bus system, Rick Fallin, transportation manager of PATS, said in an article in The Oracle on March 24.

“It has been very, very beneficial in providing us with a lot of data to better space the routes, decreasing what we call ‘headway,'” Fallin said. “It also gives us a hard number of ridership to know exactly how many riders will be in the system and at which particular stops they get on and off.”

PATS can use this data to put more buses on the routes most used by students. AVL will increase efficiency and benefit students who must rely on the Bull Runner buses daily.