If arrival tracking apps and digital timetables are available for public transit bus lines, why shouldn’t school bus systems implement the same kind of convenience for parents?
This is the question that one transportation department in Minnesota started wondering, and the school district came to one conclusion: providing parents with constant bus arrival times wouldn’t just be simple and affordable, but would reduce the stress and anxiety for busy parents.
The St. Paul school district recently announced that it has created a simple, color-coded app that allows parents and guardians to check the time status of every bus in the school district, for both morning and afternoon bus routes.
The app has a list of every bus route in the district, and parents can open a screen for the bus route that transports their children. If the bus is on time, the screen will stay green. If the bus is expected to arrive a little late — about 10 minutes or less — the screen will turn yellow. If the bus trip is cancelled for some reason, the screen will turn red.
Although the app doesn’t track the exact location of the buses, it provides a fairly accurate estimate for arrival times by working with the bus drivers and a third-party dispatcher service. The drivers of each bus simply radio their current location into the dispatchers, and that service relays the information to the St. Paul transportation department. The info is then placed into a digital form which updates the tracking app, immediately letting parents know the status of each bus.
According to Minnesota Public Radio, the St. Paul school district predicts that the system will cost about $6,250 per year — but the average school bus system has become much more complex since buses were first implemented in 1939.
The St. Paul school district explains that keeping parents updated on the status of buses has not been an easy task, considering that the district has about 900 buses in operation on any given day, and also that many regions in Minnesota frequently experience inclement weather that slows down traffic.
The app is currently available as a free download on both iTunes and Google Play stores, and is compatible with iOS and Android mobile devices. Additionally, current bus route information can be accessed on the St. Paul transportation department website.