Missing the bus by a millisecond is now a thing of the past, thanks to a new mobile app recently released by Ulster County.
As of last Tuesday, Ulster County Area Transit (UCAT) riders can instantly track the location of their buses in real time and check schedules and routes at the touch of a button. Ulster County Executive Mike Hein unveiled the free app at a press conference on Aug. 25 on the SUNY New Paltz campus.
Equipped with location services, the app follows all 27 buses of the UCAT system – including SUNY New Paltz’s LOOP bus – to tell users just where their bus is and how many minutes it will take to arrive at their stop. If a user needs to find a stop, the app provides step-by-step walking directions to it. Riders can also choose to receive text message alerts when their bus is five-to-ten minutes away from their current location.
This technology is a leap from UCAT’s prior system which included downloading multiple PDF files from the web to check routes and schedules, Ulster County Legislator Hector Rodriguez said.
Prior to the app, some SUNY New Paltz students who rely on public transit to shuttle them into town found it difficult to track the exact arrival time of buses.
Anne Chen, a third-year education major, recalls waiting 45 minutes for a bus in February that never showed up. She had to walk to the grocery store instead, which was difficult since there had just been a snowstorm the day before, she said.
“It’s supposed to be convenient for students because it runs locally and it’s free,” Chen said. “However, I stopped relying on it since there was a chance it was not going to come or was going to be late. The app is a great idea and I think it will help me trust the LOOP bus more.”
Like Chen, Student Association Executive Vice President Kelsey Ryan said she also would like to start using the app.
“As a freshman, I used the LOOP to get around town – but it was hard because sometimes the signage did not match with the actual timing of the bus,” Ryan said. “I will certainly use the app now because it brings a lot more ease to the process.”
Though the app may be frequented by primarily smartphone users, Hein said this technology is designed for everyone to use. The county is looking to install kiosks in public areas that will provide those without smartphones with use of the app.
“This app is an exciting new tool for our residents because of the amount of useful information it provides,” Hein said. “Whether it is someone waiting for the bus to take them to work, a shopper using the mall loop or a new SUNY New Paltz student in need of transportation, this app will help.”
In 2014, UCAT served over 431,000 annual transit riders – a near 79 percent increase in ridership since 2008, Hein said.
In July, the county was recognized by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as the first net carbon neutral county in the state, meaning that it neither contributes nor reduces the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.
All UCAT vehicles run on biodiesel fuel, which serves as a renewable substitute for petroleum diesel. According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center, using biodiesel increases energy security and improves air quality.
In addition to the app, Hein also announced that a new bus route will be available Oct. 1. It will run from Kingston through New Paltz to bring passengers to the Metro-North train station in Poughkeepsie. From there, residents and students can easily travel to New York City by train.
The app is available for free download on both the App Store and Google Play and can be found by searching “UCAT.”