Staying In The Loop

Cartoon by Stefanie Diers.

On Aug. 25, Ulster County officials launched a new smart phone app that allows local public transit users to track their buses in real-time and receive alerts when the bus is approaching their stop.

We at The New Paltz Oracle are glad to see this service become available to both students and residents of the Ulster County area. This tool will make traveling around the county more convenient for everyone – especially for residents who rely on public transit as their sole means of transportation.

Investing in technology that helps those who don’t have the ability to drive is furthering these citizens’ independence. Although public transportation already does this, the app makes buses even more accessible.

Putting schedules, routes and other information in one place makes catching a bus less of a headache for people who aren’t familiar with the traditional scheduling and routing methods that Ulster County Area Transit (UCAT) users once relied on. This ease of use will inevitably lead to an increase in the number of riders.

We at The New Paltz Oracle hope that the launching of this app will encourage more citizens to use public transportation and decrease the amount of carbon-emitting, fuel-based vehicles on our roads. Ulster County was recently recognized for being the only net-carbon neutral county in New York State. Since the UCAT buses run on biodiesel fuel, they release less pollution than personal vehicles.

Furthermore, anyone who has ever walked or driven on Main Street knows that the traffic can seriously impact the time one spends behind the wheel and increases the possibility of accidents. If more drivers switched to public transportation, when appropriate, some traffic may be alleviated and the roads may become less crowded. We urge community members, students included, to use the bus instead of their car when possible.

Because the app allows users to know where their bus is on the route, they can easily find out if they have missed their bus, how far away the bus is or when to go to the stop. As a result, riders won’t have to wait out in the cold or heat for a bus that may have already passed them by.

The walking directions section of the app is especially beneficial to students who may not know the area. If a student traveled to Kingston or Poughkeepsie and needs to find their way back to the stop hours later, the app provides them with easy directions.

The app will help in numerous ways, but one cannot forget that it relies on cell service to function – which can be especially choppy in certain regions of Ulster County. Although there is a plan to install kiosks that will host the app, currently those without a smartphone don’t have access to the service.

The app and future kiosks will provide  a valuable service to the community. But of course, technology can only do so much. If the buses are not on time or are even slightly ahead of schedule then just knowing where it is doesn’t actually get it to the stop quicker, or bring it back if it was missed.

The app offers many good and useful features, but it is up to the drivers and  UCAT itself to back it up and provide the community with reliable transportation. And it is up to the riders to give themselves adequate time to catch the bus.

Editorials represent the views of the majority of the editorial board. Columns, op-eds and letters, excluding editorials, are solely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The New Paltz Oracle, its staff members, the campus and university or the Town or Village of New Paltz.