With the goal of improving the university’s public transportation, USF has partnered with transit technology company Passio to improve the Bull Runner’s tracking system with more accurate arrival times.
The university previously worked with Syncromatics to track the location and arrival time of the Bull Runner, according to Assistant Director of Parking and Transportation Marie Bowen. However, this system resulted in many students getting stuck in frustration and leaving piles of complaints due to its constant inaccuracy.
When Syncromatics’ contract with the university ended, bidding began for a similar service, resulting in USF signing with Passio, according to Bowen.
The package includes four interconnected interactive screens located around campus, which will allow students to track the location and receive arrival forecasts for the Bull Runner, Bowen said. Additionally, if there is a need to reroute buses due to accidents, students will now know immediately and be alerted in the event of a campus-wide emergency.
The screens were installed at the four most popular Bull Runner shelters two weeks ago, but as of now they only display static images, according to Bowen. Shelters include those in the Marshall Student Center, the Hub, the library and Leroy Collins. Bowen said the program will be fully operational in less than 30 days.
Services that made Passio stand out included an improved tracking system, infotainment monitors as well as Bus Buzz, a feedback program that students can access and use to send suggestions or compliments to a driver, Bowen said.
The new agreement will last five years and includes options for an extension for another three years, according to Bowen. She said that’s enough time for the university and its students to get their money’s worth.
“We need to make sure we’re getting the best value for our dollars and the students’ dollars as well,” Bowen said. “We were at that point now where we had to go back and renegotiate [tracking services].”
Contract costs included both capital costs of more than $350,000 and annual operating costs of more than $31,000, according to Communications and Marketing Officer Colton Morgan.
All costs will be funded through the transportation fee students pay each year — which is $3 per credit hour for Tampa students — as well as the university’s own transportation and parking budget at no additional cost to students, Bowen said.
Installing the screens in four of the shelters did not require extensive construction, Bowen said. In fact, the necessary infrastructure for the monitors was already in place and just needed minor changes like adding points to the location.
Students will still be able to see the Bull Runner’s location for themselves through its website or text arrival prediction option, according to Bowen. Although the tracking could be more accurate, she said it’s important for students to remain patient with the usual discomforts that come with public transportation and driving on the road.
“We still want to encourage people that we still need to be aware and [that the Bull Runner is] public transportation,” said Bowen. “Like when you’re driving down the road, you can plan your route and expect to get there in 20 minutes, and then you run into traffic, and these things throw you off.”