Turns out, your voice does matter. When students all over campus complain about the buslines semester after semester, the University of Connecticut finally decides to change … the app. In all fairness, the fluctuating bus lines have been slowly getting better, and the app is just part of the effort Transportation Services has been making to improve user satisfaction. But will the app actually help?
I downloaded the app last week when MyUConn ever-so-kindly directed me away from the old bus tracker to TransLoc Rider. Not to reveal myself as a closet bus nerd, but I’d heard ahead of time that the new app would be released soon and that it would include features like a notification when your bus was nearby, the ability to add favorite stops and a rider count. This sounded like a good deal to me.
The most that I can say is that my ability to track UConn buses definitely hasn’t gotten worse. That being said, I’m not convinced that it has wholly improved either.
The feature I was most excited about was the notification. Mostly because I’m notoriously the awkward person running to catch a bus before it pulls away and having something besides my unreliable attention-span to remind me when I need to leave my dorm sounded pretty sweet.
Immediately after downloading the app, the first thing I did was set a notification to remind me when the Yellow Line was five minutes away from Towers Dining Hall. All went according to plan, I got the notification, said goodbye to my friends, put my dishes away, went outside and boom, the bus was there. If that was my only experience with TransLoc Rider, I’d have fully good reviews.
The next morning, however, I set a notification to remind me when the Orange Line was 10 minutes away from the West Campus stop. The bus showed up four minutes early. Not to make a big deal about the amount of time it takes to make a bag of popcorn, but if I hadn’t been unusually ahead of the game that day, I definitely would have missed the bus. And when the arrival time is too early, I spend my time shivering in the cold composing “first-world problem” memes in my head.
It looks like no bus-tracking app can ever really predict when buses are going to show, which is sort of the most important function. The old app was never as correct as you’d like it to be either, but I never had any grand delusions about its accuracy. It looks like the best strategy is to keep finding the bus you want on the map display and making your best guess.
Which brings up another aspect of the new app: Interface. For the most part, I think the interface of the new app is far superior to the old app. No more of that “use two fingers to move the map” business. The icons and controls are intuitive and it’s easy to find what you’re looking for. It is a little obnoxious that you have to click on a route in order to see where the buses are, but once you open a route, it stays open even after you leave the app, which is convenient.
It’s also convenient that you don’t have to navigate through the MyUConn app. TransLoc Rider is actually used at other schools and in Metropolitan areas to track buses as well, which means the app can serve you well while traveling.
As for the rider counts, I haven’t been riding at a very busy time, but they seem to be inaccurate by an irrelevant amount, so while this is a kind of cool feature, it hasn’t changed the way I do anything. The “favorite” also doesn’t really add anything to my experience, but it’s there.
Ultimately, the biggest drawback of the new app is the fact that the arrival times are still incorrect. The notifications are kind of nifty, if you use it as a reminder and not a second-by-second estimate, and the interface is much improved. I’m still waiting for the perfect bus app, where all I have to do is input a location and it’ll tell me what routes to take, but for now, TransLoc will do.
Alex Houdeshell is the associate managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.