[IMAGE]gowest.jpg[/IMAGE]The Go West Transit System, which serves Western Illinois University and the community of Macomb, Ill., has implemented several Web tools that allow riders to track buses in real time and plan rides more efficiently.
At www.gowesttransit.com, the system's Twitter feed is on display, along with a live map showing the location, direction and speed of buses on their routes; the GPS tracking and live map display with Twitter integration was developed by Ride Systems. Go West Transit also maintains a Facebook page, and has an application available for iPhone users.
The live map can also be viewed on a smartphone, or riders can send a text message to receive bus information — a service known as Route Shout.
With Route Shout, a code will be posted at each bus stop. Within 10 seconds of sending the code by text to Go West's Route Shout number, the user will receive arrival times for the next three buses at that stop. There is no additional fee for the texting service.
Both the live map and Route Shout are in beta testing, and will be ready for students returning in January. "Now, they don't have to go out and wait and wonder when the bus is going to be there," Go West Transit Director Jude Kiah says.
"Since our inception we have been trying to be as cutting edge as we can be, being a university town," he explains. The system is among the largest rural systems in the country by ridership, and is fare-free for all riders. Students pay a per-credit-hour transit fee, Kiah says.
The system is open to the public, and although about 85 percent of the system's ridership is students, faculty or other university riders, Kiah says, "we're up 100 percent in our non-university rides in the last three years," he says.
"We are one of, I think, two [universities] left in the U.S. that actually runs the municipal system," Kiah says. "Eight routes are pretty much exclusively university riders. Six are either primarily or completely non-university."
Members of the public can also use the live map Website and Route Shout. In order to publicize the services, Go West Transit put out a university news release, which was picked up by local television stations and newspapers, as well as the campus paper.
"To me, it's about finding the things that will make the system more exciting and palatable to people, and then doing it," Kiah says.