Campus Safety launched a pilot application Block 1 of this year for Android and iPhone that tracks the location of the CCAT shuttle in an effort to increase accessibility and use of the shuttle for CC students.
With the application, students can access a map of the CCAT — or Colorado College Alternative Transportation — shuttle route, the shuttle’s exact location, and estimated time of arrival at other locations.
It’s “Safe Ride” in the 21st century.
In the ‘50s and ‘60s, Colorado Springs had a trolley system that ran up and down Tejon Street and Colorado Avenue. These were removed as car traffic increased. Since then, there has always been, as Calkins describes, “a grassroots initiative to bring back public transportation in Colorado Springs.”
The Colorado Springs public bus also used to stop in the Armstrong parking lot to transport students to businesses downtown. Unfortunately, this was also discontinued due to budgetary reasons within the last decade.
Campus Safety and Colorado College students in turn started the student-operated CCAT shuttle that drives students around downtown Wednesday through Saturday from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.
The idea sounded great, but Campus Safety found that the shuttle was initially very underutilized. In fact, a survey conducted of 27 CC students of all ages found that only six of them had ever used the shuttle.
Assistant Director of Campus Safety Nick Calkins began research on an automated dispatch program. The study looked particularly at the increasing number of students using Safe Ride as a means of transportation for when they didn’t feel like walking to a party or to town rather than for emergencies.
“Safe Ride became a free taxi service picking up and dropping off people in specific areas,” said Calkins. “The shuttle on the other hand is more like a bus than a taxi. With it, we can bring Safe Ride back to managing priority calls.”
Campus Safety conducted an unofficial survey of the shuttle drivers and a small group of students about what people thought of the shuttle service. Across the board they found that students did not know where and when the shuttle picked up students or that shuttle ran on a route instead of dropping students off at specific locations.
After research online and in the International Parking Institute magazine, Calkins found Ride Systems, a premier provider of route system navigation.
“We chose Ride Systems because it was very customizable,” Calkins said. “Other systems tailored towards larger vehicles and more buses. We needed something that we could scale down to fit our needs.
Calkins did not specify exactly how much the application cost, but he said, “It wasn’t really too expensive.”
He continued on to explain that the application is simply a template: CC sends them a logo and the route maps, and Ride Systems plugs in the information to a universal model used by places as varied as Brown University, Breckenridge Mountain Resort, and the Richmond Airport.
In addition to the cost of using the template, CC will be charged an annual maintenance fee. The GPSs, one of which is fixed inside of the CCAT shuttle while the other is portable and more used for tracking Safe Ride routes, were included in the package Campus Safety purchased from Ride Systems.
Calkins explained how the portable GPS is used from a planning standpoint to see how far Safe Ride drives in a night, where they are driving, and how Safe Ride is being utilized on a graphic level. With this, they can begin to change shuttle routes to stop in high-traffic areas.
“It would also be a great advertisement to the community that we want to see our students around Colorado Springs and to break down the barriers between the locals and the college,” said Calkins.
He hopes that by breaking that wall, campus safety and security will improve, and the students will benefit from immersing themselves in the rich culture of Colorado Springs.
“My main goal is to get everyone to download the app,” said Calkins. “The only way to do that is through education. We want to be very specific with our purpose. The shuttle should be to help to get from one place to another, but not necessarily a specific location.”
Despite these aspirations, only one of the 26 students in the above-mentioned survey had downloaded the app. Most of the others had not even heard of it.
Senior Quintus Drennan, who has downloaded the app, said that the app “wasn’t working well at all Block 1” and in turn, had not used it much during Block 2.
In an ideal world, the app would work flawlessly so students have an incentive to download it. For now, the usability of the app is still in a pilot stage with much potential for growth in the future.
To view the shuttle tracker, visit: http://www.ccatshuttle.com
Elizabeth Forster, Staff Writer