GPS for shuttle system possible

Senior Ido Farhi said the overcrowded shuttle he rode each morning from the Sandage parking lot to campus was both dangerous and inefficient.

Students cram into the bus, stand in the aisles and hit their heads when the bus goes over a bump, said Farhi, an electrical engineering major. When the bus is full, it leaves many students still waiting for it to return, which takes about 10 minutes, and consequently students arrive late to class, he said.

Student Body President Marlon Figueroa said parking problems are the most common complaints Student Government Association representatives receive. In response, the SGA is working with the administration and TCU Police to improve the shuttle system with better maps and signs, lighted waiting areas, online schedules and a GPS tracking system.

Figueroa said the GPS system would help shuttle riders by displaying exactly what time the next bus would arrive on signs at the stops. He said he wants to find a system that would also allow students to access the GPS tracker on their computers or through the TCU iPhone application.

“I’ve been talking to the administration a lot (about) what we’re doing to facilitate convenient parking for students, and one of the main things is the shuttle system,” Figueroa said.

He said the administration believes the shuttle system compensates for inconvenient parking because it allows students to get anywhere on campus from any parking lot instantly.

Sophomore Alice Schruba, a resident of Tom Brown/Pete Wright apartments, said the buses aren’t very convenient for on-campus residents either because they only travel around certain parts of campus. She said it’s nice to have the option of using the shuttles at night, but because the buses don’t come by very often, she usually chooses to walk.

“(SGA’s improvements) would help, but I’d rather have a parking lot,” Schruba said. “If I could just park where I pay to park that would be nice, instead of having to park far away.”

In a recent meeting with TCU Police Chief Steve McGee and DeAnn Jones, coordinator of parking and transportation services for the TCU Police Department, Figueroa discussed his goals for the program. He said he was surprised to hear that many of SGA’s ideas, such as the GPS mapping system, were already being worked on by TCU Police.

McGee said the university already had plans to put up new route maps on signs at the shuttle stops and in dorms to show students where the buses can take them. Route adjustments, which are made each semester, usually solve problems with overcrowded routes, he said.

In addition to the driver and rider surveys used in the past to alter routes, the university hired a consulting company this semester to gather student input on areas for improvement. The company is already in the process of retrieving information from e-mail surveys, McGee said. New maps will be posted this summer after the university analyzes the results and tweaks the routes accordingly, he said.

McGee also attended a conference to research the GPS systems. While he did not see anything he thought was ideal for the campus, he said he planed to attend another conference and continue researching companies for an affordable system.

Figueroa said the GPS system was a high priority for SGA, and representatives would be willing to contribute about $20,000 of their campus advancement budget to make it happen. He said the total cost of the systems is about $80,000.

He said he hopes that putting SGA’s funding behind the project would encourage the university to make up the difference.

Figueroa said SGA also wanted to increase awareness about the system by discussing it during the First Year Experiences program and by making shuttle maps more accessible online.

Farhi, who attended the SGA Student Relations Town Hall meeting in February to voice his concerns about the Sandage lot, said that while these improvements would be helpful to on-campus residents, they would not help with commuter parking.

“It doesn’t change the fact that every morning there’s a problem getting from Sandage to class,” Farhi said. “I don’t need any maps; we’re not asking for any GPS guidance. We just need a bus to take us from the parking lot. If they are able to provide a good shuttle system where there are enough buses that come frequently enough, then (parking) is not a problem.”

Source: TCU Police