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New GPS Mapping App Puts Bus Routes At Riders’ Fingertips

A team of Indiana University students helped develop the real-time bus mapping software for Bloomington Transit.

Bloomington Transit Bus

Photo: WFIU / WTIU News

A new mapping app uses GPS data to show riders where city buses are in real time.

Bloomington Transit riders can now track public buses using a real-time mapping service that launched Wednesday.

The mapping app, which can be accessed on the Bloomington Transit website or through an iPhone and Android app, tracks all Bloomington Transit vehicles using GPS. Users can locate a bus stop and then see how long it will be until their bus is scheduled to arrive.

The bus tracker system was developed by Double Map, a startup company formed by Indiana University students whose first project was to develop the tracker for the campus bus system. It cost about $200,000 to create and will require $25,000 a year to maintain.

Bloomington Transit General Manager Lew May says he hopes the new app will entice more Bloomington residents to give public transportation a try.

“Folks who have considered using public transportation but may be a little leery, not knowing where their bus may be at any given moment,” May says. “This will give them that information at their fingertips.”

The buses are also being fitted with voice annunciators that make prerecorded announcements for route stops to help the visually impaired. That system cost another $250,000.

May announced the changes at a Bloomington City Council budget hearing Wednesday night. He also told the council that the Indiana Department of Transportation has given its blessing to a proposed merger of Bloomington Transit and the Indiana University bus system.

Under the new agreement, the campus would essentially become another region of Bloomington Transit, owned by the city but leased and operated by the university. The merger could add more than 3.5 million rides per year, and because state funding is often based on ridership numbers, the arrangement has the potential to raise millions of dollars in new revenue for the city.

A merger has been in the works for years.

The Bloomington Transit budget for 2014 is estimated at $8.3 million. Without the merger, 2014 ridership is projected to be 3.6 million.

Jimmy Jenkins

Jimmy Jenkins is a multimedia journalist for WFIU and WTIU news. A native of Terre Haute, he is a masters student at the Indiana University School of Journalism and is proud to be a part of the public broadcasting stations he listened to and watched since he was a child. Follow him on Twitter @newsjunkyjimmy.

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