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Published March 08, 2013, 11:06 AM

When's the Bus Coming? Grand Forks Has an App for That

Starting in June, a new app will tell Grand Forks-area bus riders if their bus is on time or late, how many minutes it will be late and help them pick the right bus based on their destination.

By: Brandi Jewett, Grand Forks Herald

Starting in June, a new app will tell Grand Forks-area bus riders if their bus is on time or late, how many minutes it will be late and help them pick the right bus based on their destination.

RouteShout, the free software application for smartphones, tablets and computers, is part of an effort by Cities Area Transit to encourage even more people to ride the bus, according to transit Superintendent Dale Bergman.

“People hesitate to use public transportation because they may view it as inconvenient,” said Daisy Wall, vice president of marketing for RouteMatch, the company behind the app.

Bergman hopes to see that view change with the new app.

CAT bus ridership broke records last year when it hit 371,000 annual riders.

“I expect to see a continued increase,” Bergman said. “The first two months of this year have already broken ridership records.”

The app is being tested by some city employees and UND students. It will be 100 percent operational in June, according to Bergman.

For now, smartphone users can see schedule information at m.routeshout.com.

Tracking buses

According to Wall, each bus will have a tablet that sends out its GPS coordinates to the RouteShout system. From those coordinates, the system calculates the bus’ arrival time and alert riders when it will arrive at their stop.

“That way people don’t have to sit out in the snow if they know their bus will be five minutes late,” Wall said.

Both city and university bus information will be included in the app, which is available for Android phones, iPhones and iPads. Riders can also get bus information online through their computers or through text messaging on cell phones.

Ali Rood, CAT mobility manager, said the app will make taking the bus easier for first-time or infrequent riders. “They won’t have go online, download maps and try to figure out the schedule.”

To use RouteShout, a rider would select the transit agency and type in a destination. A list of stops near the destination will appear with the closest stop first. When the rider selects a stop, they will see a list of routes going to that stop. Frequently used stops can be bookmarked.

The rider can also sign up for alerts to announce route changes or closures.

Leading the pack

Grand Forks is the first city in North Dakota to adopt bus tracking technology, according to Bergman.

CAT has been working with RouteMatch since 2010 to bring the technology to Grand Forks. It’s one of more than 30 transit agencies nationwide to use RouteShout. The app is free to both users and the transit agency hosting it.

Fargo and Bismarck have both contacted RouteMatch with interest in using the app.

RouteMatch also will be integrated into a regional veteran transportation system headquartered in Grand Forks. The state transportation department received a $1.8 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration, and asked Grand Forks to lead the pilot program.

“It’s a big deal,” Bergman said. “The FTA is using Grand Forks as a model.”

The pilot program would upgrade CAT’s call center and website, and equip rural transit agencies with new scheduling and dispatch software through RouteMatch.

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