Mobile app gives Kenosha transit riders easy access to bus schedules

University of Wisconsin-Parkside App Factory
Kenosha
Innovation: Kenosha Area Transit App
www.appfactory.uwp.edu

Kenosha commuters trying to mesh the transit schedule with their own can now do so through a new smartphone app developed by students in the University of Wisconsin-Parkside’s App Factory.

The Kenosha Area Transit App, a free app available on both Apple and Android devices, allows users to tap into the transit system’s schedule directly through their phones with a QR code system.

QR codes are posted on bus stops around the city, and when a user scans one with his or her phone, the app will display the routes, times and directions of the buses.

The app also maps bus stop locations for users, so a user wondering how and where to find the closest location can easily do so through his or her phone. That feature, which relies on GPS technology, then allows a user to see when the next buses are slated to arrive at that particular stop.

Transit riders who are not certain how to get from their current location to their preferred destination can access walking and bus directions through the app to ensure they follow the right route.

The brains behind the Kenosha Area Transit App are UW-Parkside students and Derek Riley, Ph.D., assistant professor of computer science at UW-Parkside and a co-director of the App Factory.

Riley jumped on the app project after receiving an email from Kenosha Area Transit inquiring about the possibility of creating a scheduling app for its routes.

The KAT office had been fielding an average of 300 phone calls per day from bus riders wondering when buses would arrive at particular stops and how to travel from one point to another.

“They wanted to see if there was a way to use a mobile app to reduce that call volume,” Riley said.

Riley

The app project began in February 2014 in a software engineering class Riley was teaching at the university and carried into the summer, as it needed development and support beyond the spring semester’s end.

Riley credits the app as an impetus for the App Factory, a campus group of students who create apps for for-profit and nonprofit clients from the community.

Students in Riley’s class were eager to continue fleshing out the Kenosha Area Transit App through the summer, Riley said.

“But we didn’t really have any way for them to work on it formally during the summer, and so that’s what really motivated us to look into creating the App Factory,” he said.

To structure the features and functions of the KAT App, Riley and his team of students researched transit apps in other cities, analyzed their strengths and weaknesses, and tried to design a tool that would make it as easy as possible for riders to find the answers to their schedule questions.

The app allows users to access bus schedules, find bus stops and determine the route they need to take to their destination.

Riley and his students have continually updated the app and released different versions throughout its 15 months of development. About 25 students have contributed to the project, though currently only a few are actively engaged in its advancement.

The app remains a “work in progress,” Riley said, particularly as students prepare to outfit it with a push notification function, through which Kenosha Area Transit will be able to communicate urgent messages on route closures and changes to users.

In future versions of the app, users may be able to access bus schedules in real time with GPS technology and purchase bus passes through their phones, according to Riley.

The App Factory is also looking to deploy its transit app technology in additional markets across the state and country. Early next month, a transit app developed by the university will make its debut in Racine.

With 600 transit systems across the United States, less than a quarter of which have a mobile app, there is a “huge opportunity” to launch well beyond southeastern Wisconsin, Riley said.

The Kenosha Area Transit App is available in the Apple Store and in Google Play.

The app allows users to access bus schedules, find bus stops and determine the route they need to take to their destination.

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