Editorial: New shuttle tracking app TransLoc Rider is a welcome upgrade

Say good-bye to NextBus and hello to TransLoc Rider, the new shuttle tracking app for campus and the local area.

The editorial board believes the switch is an upgrade in every way. TransLoc Rider is more accurate, user-friendly and consistent than NextBus.

Every member of the Case Western Reserve University and University Circle community needs a safe and reliable way to get around campus, and the NextBus app failed to fulfill that need. Oftentimes, buses would arrive anywhere from a few minutes to nearly half an hour later than the NextBus app and website predicted. The two different mediums themselves were unsynchronized at times. Arrival times for buses would unexpectedly change. All of these problems made it difficult for campus members to rely on the app and site, especially when in a time crunch.

The CWRU administration, as well as University Hospitals and University Circle, did a great job of recognizing this problem and making an effort to identify a better system for shuttle tracking. These organizations worked with CWRU to evaluate tracking apps and found that Rider was the best choice available. Rider isn’t just beneficial for CWRU students; University Hospitals employees, people who commute to University Circle and anyone else in the area can use the app.

We don’t know much about other shuttle-tracking apps besides NextBus, but we can say that TransLoc Rider is a major improvement.

On the surface, both apps share a few similarities, such as the Google Maps-style aerial view of the bus’s location, which allows for real-time tracking of shuttles. Both apps also show an outline of the bus’s planned route, with stops marked. However, unlike NextBus, the Rider app clearly lists the proximity of a given bus from any stop along the route, so you can easily plan where you need to be in order to catch your bus.

Rider also has a notification system set up so that users can be alerted when a bus is close to their location. This feature allows you to focus on something other than the app, so you can catch up on studying while waiting for the bus.

The editorial board was pleased to find that actual arrival times are typically within a minute or two of the app’s prediction. When there are unexpected stops or deviations from the bus’s route, Rider seems to update its predictions almost as soon as the change occurs. This is much better than NextBus, which showed changes on its overhead map but oftentimes failed to update its predicted arrival time, leading to confusion.

There is still room for improvement in the shuttle services around University Circle. Shuttle stops where people cannot easily see the bus approaching need display boards to show arrival times.  Even those that do have display boards can sometimes be inaccurate. For riders who have smartphones and can download Rider, this won’t be much of problem. However, the lack of a display board is a problem for people who use the shuttle but don’t have access to Rider. These riders can’t easily see the bus at stops like Thwing Center and Fribley Commons and don’t have an app, so they need accurate display boards to keep track of buses.

We also need a better solution for the Thwing Center stop. Because of concerns about pedestrian safety, vehicles are no longer allowed on Kelvin Smith Library Oval. The Evening Shuttle North now has a stop at Thwing Center, and sometimes it won’t stop unless students ask an attendant. This system is inefficient and frustrating, especially at late hours of the night when you want to get back from the library as quickly as possible.

We know it seems silly to spend an entire piece discussing an app that tracks shuttles, but we were surprised by the changes to the new app and are happy to see the collaboration that made it possible.