OSU app club, OPAL partner to launch GPS-tracking app for OSU, Corvallis residents

The Oregon State University app club, in partnership with the OSU policy analysis laboratory, has launched a new app, Transport, for iPhone and Android with real-time updates of the Corvallis Transit System.

The OSU policy analysis laboratory, OPAL, contacted the app club last fall with the idea of creating an app that OSU and the wider Corvallis public could use.

"OPAL's mission is being able to find real policy applications for what we are studying in the School of Public Policy," said public liaison for the project Ian Davidson, who is a grad student in the School of Public Policy.

The plans were laid out during winter term, followed by the app's creation in April. The apps were given a soft launch last week without public marketing and advertising.

"We're pretty confident; there's one more update we are going to do before marketing it next week," said Transport creator Chris Vanderschuere, who is a senior in electrical engineering.

At the start of the project, OPAL conducted a marketing research survey to see why more people do not utilize the free bus rides.

"We looked at the different habits and how people use the bus," Davidson said.

The No. 1 complaint found in the survey was that the buses were often off schedule and late. Riders cited frustrations with trip-planning and waiting longer than necessary in the rain.

The club then took that information to figure out what the most important elements would be in a new app.

"The survey led us to believe that an app would increase the riders," Davidson said.

Many people surveyed said they would use the bus system more if they were able to track the actual arrival and departure times of the various routes.

"The app uses the GPS on the buses, so it tells the time the bus is actually going to be there, not what's on the schedule," Vanderschuere said.

In April, OPAL hosted a weekend "Hackathon" during which teams gathered to try out their ideas for the app.

"Everyone got to make an app and try the marketing ideas you wanted," Vanderschuere said.

Out of five teams, three successfully completed their projects. The results were one app for Android and one for iPhone that have launched, with another iPhone app scheduled for launch to the public soon.

The completed apps are meant for commuters who understand their travel destinations and distances in and around Corvallis.

"The apps target users that are fairly familiar with the system," Vanderschuere said. "It's meant to be quick."

In other words, the app gives a list of the current stops and their times, rather than mapping information that would be helpful for someone who is touring Corvallis and needs navigation.

There are three separate screens on the app that show different aspects of the transit system. The first shows the real-time estimated arrivals for each of the routes at their respective stops with a drop-down menu of the proceeding stops later in the day. The next screen displays the street addresses of the specific stops along each route, and the final is a color-coded Corvallis map highlighting each route and the user's location.

The information for the app was all gathered from Corvallis Transit System, but CTS is not specifically associated with the app's management. CTS was interested in OSU's partnership, encouraged the creation of the app and met with the app club and OPAL several times to ensure accurate application of the route data.

"CTS was amenable to this project," Davidson said. "We wanted to make sure we were on the same page."

Emma-Kate Schaake

City reporter


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