App helps U students navigate campus - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

App helps U students navigate campus

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As students head to the University of Minnesota for a new term, a new app is helping them navigate a big and busy campus that sees 60,000 people each day.

Many people use buses to get around campus, and it's certainly a bummer to miss one.

"I've been stranded before," admitted Jessica Martin, a student at the U.

For students on a schedule, it can be tough to recover after getting off-track -- but that's getting easier thanks to cell-phone technology that links into a real-time bus tracking system. Now, students like Mary Johnson can scan a QR code located at a campus bus stop with a smart phone camera and, within seconds, she'll know when the next bus will arrive.

"Four minutes until the next connector," she found.

The new technology is called NextBus, and it uses GPS transponders on the Campus Connector buses to calculate instant wait times based on the scanner's location. Best of all, it's accurate down to the minute.

Students without smart phones can still use the service too by texting UMNBUS and the bus number to get a text reply back of how long it will take for the bus to arrive.

The tracking tech arrives as construction on a new light rail line is tying up traffic and access to campus, which is why the university is promoting transit as a solution to get around.

"It's a challenging time right now. We've got light rail going through the center of campus. We've got at least three construction projects going in or around campus," University of Minnesota President Eric Kaler explained. "So, we're trying to promote bus use for all of the obvious reasons, and we want to help the students who want to take advantage."

The U isn't alone in giving this technology a try. Metro Transit put a very similar tracking system in place several years ago, and it's expected to be a good resource for the 3,800 public high school students now taking Metro Transit buses to school.

Users can access that system by logging on to MetroTransit.org and look for the NexTrip tab. Enter in the bus stop, and it will tell you how far away the next bus is.

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