A new smartphone application that tracks the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa’s Rainbow Shuttles around campus is UH’s latest effort to boost ridership on the transportation system.
The application, which uses cellular networks to track the shuttles, was launched last month after UH Mānoa Commuter Services reached a contract agreement with Ride Systems, a Seattle-based company that has developed similar systems for shuttle services at other universities.
“[Previously], it was difficult to use the shuttle just because if you couldn’t see it, you really didn’t know when it was coming,” said Crysttal Atkins, UH Mānoa’s traffic demand management coordinator. “We had not had timed stops, except for the night shuttle. … That’s just too much guesswork.”
Atkins added that the tracking system is the product of a larger challenge to create a strict, on-time schedule for the shuttles something that she acknowledges was “more complex” than originally thought.
With the application available free for iOS and Android users via the respective app stores and to anyone with a computer at uhmshuttle.com, riders can view regularly updated locations for each of the shuttles, as well as estimated arrival times for each bus.
In all, UH paid $15,960 for the app as well as the system of wireless transmitters that have been installed in the buses of the shuttle. The first year of tracking will be covered under contract with the option to renew for another two years.
The Rainbow Shuttles are responsible for almost 250,000 rides each year around, to and from campus. While many of those occur between on-campus housing facilities and campus proper, Atkins said one goal that she and others have is to expand services to areas immediately around the campus.
In particular, she feels that a new route to Mo‘ili‘ili is being considered after the successful addition of the Wai‘alae route earlier this school year. Atkins attributes adequate ridership on such off-campus routes to the 43 percent of students, faculty and staff who live within a three-mile radius of UH.
Despite being close to campus, Atkins said certain neighborhoods are largely forgotten by TheBus and other public transportation, thus creating an opportunity for the program to expand.
“It fills a gap that the transit service doesn’t serve very well for those neighborhoods to campus,” Atkins said.
Expanding the shuttles’ routes to include more off-campus destinations has been tried before. In 2006, a proposal that originated in the ASUH Senate resulted in a pilot program that operated shuttles between UH Mānoa and Ala Moana. Ultimately, though, a lack of demand brought the routes to an end.