Buff bus apps cause frustration during inclement weather

Students ride the Williams Village Buff Bus as it takes the Basketball Reroute on Tuesday morning. (Lucy Haggard/CU Independent)

Students commuting to campus from Williams Village on Tuesday morning were surprised when the Buff Bus took an unexpected turn, skipping the first two stops on main campus.

Parking and Transportation Services decided early Tuesday to reroute the bus away from the Engineering Center and the Center for Community. However, many students did not know about the change until they were on the bus.

Rita Martin, communications manager for Parking and Transportation Services, explained that the decision to reroute had to do with the road conditions on Regent Drive.

“The road was sanded, but the buses were still not able to get traction leaving the Center for Community stop to go up the hill towards Broadway,” Martin said. “This was a safety issue. Keeping students safe is always the foremost concern.”

The bus changes came after a delayed opening of campus on Tuesday. Students were notified through texts and emails from CU Alerts at 5:30 a.m., one hour after posting on Twitter through the CU Police Department.

For students keeping track of the various bus routes that service campus, there are two options. ETA Spot, (iPhone/Android) an app used to track bus locations on campuses around the country. The other option is the CU Bus Tracker app, (iPhone/Android) developed by CU’s Environmental Center.

The main difference between the apps lies in their ability to communicate route changes. ETA Spot notifies students of delays and rerouting, while CU Bus Tracker currently does not.

Eloise Madsan, a freshman studio art major, lives in Williams Village and uses CU Bus Tracker. She was surprised that there was another option available through ETA Spot with notifications of route changes.

“That sounds a lot more helpful … to have an app that’s a lot more reliable,” Madsan said.

The Environmental Center is working to add a platform on CU Bus Tracker that integrates the route changes, according to Brandon Smith, assistant director for sustainable transportation at the Environmental Center.

Martin said Parking and Transportation Services ran a banner in the ETA Spot app notifying about the delay and rerouting on Tuesday at the same time as it was shared on social media. Meanwhile, those using CU Bus Tracker only saw the buses diverging from their normal routes.

CU Boulder Today referenced “the CUBusTracker app” in their article Tuesday afternoon about preparing for delayed starts on campus, though the article linked to the web bus tracker hosted by ETA Spot.

While CU Bus Tracker saw about 3,500 active devices from Jan. 21 to Feb. 21, analytics about active devices for ETA Spot were unavailable. It’s unclear which app is more popular. Of the 10 students the CUI spoke with, none were aware of the ETA Spot app and some weren’t aware of the CU Bus Tracker app either.

While CU Alerts put information on its website and Alertus app (iPhone/Android) regarding the delay and reroute of the buses, it did not send out text or email alerts. Currently, about 78 percent of CU Boulder students, staff and faculty, are subscribed to the alerts system. Less than 1,000 people use the app.

Scott Pribble, spokesperson for the CU Police Department, said that the school uses CU Alerts only when a situation is urgent and impacts a large portion of campus, especially if it’s dangerous. He cited a concern that people would become desensitized and possibly miss an important alert.

“A Buff Bus reroute, while important, is not a life safety issue,” Pribble said.

Ahmed Harb, a junior in computer science, uses the Buff Bus daily, keeping track through CU Bus Tracker. He said the rerouting was surprising and frustrating since he was unaware of the change.

“It would be more convenient to know about delays and rerouting if they notify us better than that,” Harb said.

The school also published the updates through two Twitter accounts. The CU Parking and Transportation account, with 854 followers, tweeted at 5:22 a.m. about the choice to delay the start of the Buff Bus routes until 9 a.m.

At 7:51 a.m., the CU Buff Bus account, which has 765 followers, tweeted about the bus route change.

Contact CU Independent Multimedia News Editor Lucy Haggard at lucy.haggard@colorado.edu.

Lucy Haggard

Lucy Haggard is in her third year at CU Boulder, born and raised in Colorado. She is currently the Editor-In-Chief, helping the CUI cover campus and the local community in the most aesthetically and audibly pleasing ways possible. When not on assignment, she's probably dancing way too early in the morning.

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